History of Free Will
The concept of free will has been given different content throughout history. On the one hand, it is an insertion of the person into the order of nature. It begins with Sophocles , doing the divine as a law of its own, goes through the Stoics, to live according to nature, to Marx and others, it is a matter of the insight into necessity. The connection between freedom and obedience is consistent. Another content is the original autonomy of self-determination. This begins with Plato when he lets the pre-existing soul determine its mode of being itself, and the same thought occurs with Origen ; the Stoa sees freedom in the power to act from oneself. Here, too, the idea of realizing freedom through obedience to God plays a role, but not as freedom itself, but as its right use. At the end there is Jean-Paul Sartre with his idea of self-determination. Closely related to this is Seneca's idea that freedom is self-sufficiency , power over oneself.
The Christianity rejects the idea of self-realization and defines freedom as turning to God. The question shifts from the definition of freedom to the question of how freedom and God's omnipotence and omniscience can be thought together. This leads to the assumption of determination in varying degrees of intensity, until the reformers state the loss of freedom through original sin.
While the liberum arbitrium (free will) until then was only rarely addressed independently, but rather more or less implicitly denied or as a one-off act in a preexistence, in modern times it has become an independent topic as liberum arbitrium indifferentiae (absolute freedom of choice) without neglecting the rest of the content. Freedom, as liberum arbitrium, was now understood as the possibility of being able to begin by oneself, and this possibility was opposed to the principle of sufficient reason and thus denied. So one dealt more with freedom from external coercion, which led to political demands. Internal laws were not discussed further in this stringency.
Among the Greeks, the intellectual preoccupation with freedom began with Homer. He used the term ἐκὠν (hekóon) for the condition of the human being, not being able to be active from the drive of his own nature, hindered by any external force. Gradually, Sophocles developed an approximation of meaning to ἀυτόνομος (autónomos). The word “ autonomous ” comes from the political context and expresses the highest moral freedom, which the divine does as its own law.
With the sophists , what was determined by nature was free as opposed to what is enforced by law. But what is effected from this freedom is itself necessary, in contrast to what is imposed by the law. Nature only allows what is appropriate to us to arise. But since the autonomous will by its nature goes towards what is appropriate to us, “freedom” now means “obey nature”. (This is the root of the Stoic and Cynical demand to live according to nature.) Man's choice must be based on what is beneficial for him, on what keeps him alive and on the pleasure in the morally beautiful and good. It becomes an obligation to want what is good. For Socrates this leads to the concept of freedom as “doing the best”. That presupposes the knowledge of the best and also a choice in the sense of preferring. Here the moral decision is discussed for the first time. So that the inferior does not come to the fore and exclude the choice of the best, “ self-sufficiency ” is to be achieved through purifying self-control and the best to be determined through research. In doing so, it is not one's own knowledge that is decisive, but rather the opening for the divine warnings against the not-best, which is to be achieved by admitting ignorance. The content of the freedom understood in this way is “Follow God”. The Cynics took over the striving for self-sufficiency from Socrates and stylized it as the ideal of needlessness. Antisthenes and Diogenes are models for this attitude.
According to Plato , freedom does not consist in being able to choose, but in the inner necessity of wanting one's own being as one's highest possibility, which the gods have set. But he also knows the real choice, assuming that the pre-existing soul chooses its way of life, its “lot”, by virtue of the insight that it has gained through its decisions in a previously lived existence and thus also for this lot responsible for.
Aristotle rejected the decision in the preexistence and postulated the free choice in the concrete act of action. According to him, the striving for the good leads to the realization of what is ought without excluding what is not ought. Knowledge is necessary for this. So he defines the choice as a "going to-see-yourself" to determine the right one, which is then decided in the action. The Stoa sees freedom as an authority to act from oneself. The reasonable one can do what he will because he has the reasonable consideration, i.e. H. has come into agreement with the will of the universal Logos. Because we are embedded in the cosmos, we only have freedom together with necessity, fate. The human being does not fall out of nature through his freedom, but freedom and necessity coincide in his nature.
Seneca sees freedom as domination over the lower forces of the soul, affects and living conditions. In this order of life the wise man is self-sufficient, and within its limits everything is in his power, even the life that he can give back to the deity from whom he received it. He sees freedom in "obeying God". With Epictetus , the deepest reason for freedom is choice, the innermost power of self-disposal, which even Zeus cannot defeat. "Is free, to whom everything happens according to his free decision." Freedom is that given by the Godhead, which he restores to it by obeying God. Through his unconditional obedience to God, man becomes free against this God. Alexander of Aphrodisias, finally, limits freedom to doing or not doing what is reasonable, i.e. also being able to do what is unreasonable and thus to prove that he is doing the good he does in freedom.
With Plotinus man is not absolutely free. Only the eternal in man, the soul, is free. The body is subject to the binding force of the world order and the laws determined by it. If the very nature of the human being works, then the human being is also completely free and is himself the reason for his actions. But man does not have this freedom in his actions in relation to external reality, which is beyond his control. He differentiates between the freedom of full self-power and the subordinate freedom of choice. But that is the freedom that people are entitled to if they act with foresight on the basis of deliberations. As a result, the Neo-Platonists no longer speak of free action, but of a liberation in the sense of redemption from the necessity of nature to a solely free, self-empowered way of being of the divine. Through devotion to God, man becomes a contributory cause of divine action. Through the unifying knowledge of God, the absolute freedom of divine activity in the spirit of man is completed at the same time.
Neither the Old nor the New Testament address freedom itself - if one disregards the liberation from the bondage of Egypt. Rather, they presuppose the freedom to choose good or bad.
Even before the New Testament literature, Philo of Alexandria dealt with this term. For him only God, "that which is not related to anything, completely filled with itself, self-sufficient supreme being", is free. Man has an active and passive principle within himself. The active principle cannot work by itself, but God must lead it to perfection. The human mind is a center and God is a center. The human fall into sin is the development of man towards his own center instead of the divine center. Such self-development leads to extreme bondage. Whoever makes himself the determining center tries to make himself equal to God. For Philo, the stoic basic requirement of self-appropriation in moral action is perfect apostasy, evil par excellence.
In the early Christian literature of the Apostolic Fathers , Greek terminology is filled with foreign content. The freedom problem is not dealt with separately. This only happens with the early Christian apologists .
Justin challenged the Stoics' assertion that a person is good or bad because of a fateful fate, claiming that a person freely chooses to do what is right and what is wrong. But this justification of personal responsibility, which is necessary for him, leads to the problem of the merging of human freedom and divine foreknowledge that recurs again and again.
According to Tatian , the free decision of the free man is part of the world context which the heathen misinterpreted as fatum and which God foresees. But he does not solve the problem of the coexistence of divine providence and human freedom. On the one hand man can turn away from evil himself, on the other hand only the Spirit of God saves the soul.
At the same time, Gnosis shifts the relationship between the two into the mythical preexistence. According to Irenaeus , freedom is the development of God's will for salvation in the world, as the history of man in the cosmos. Only God is absolutely free. The archetype is the free obedience of the Son of Man , who sums up the history of mankind in his redeeming work.
In contrast, Clement of Alexandria again falls back on the opposition between human freedom and divine grace. According to him, man has a natural faculty that is geared towards the good and with which he can overcome his instinctual nature. This self-power of man also leads to the accountability of his decision. It is God's will that we choose in the will of the good and redeem ourselves through this knowledge. Here Clemens crosses the line to Gnosticism .
Origen means that the pre-existing soul chooses between good and evil as a form of existence. Once in the world, man can nevertheless rise again to the divine spirit through his moral action. According to him, God's foreknowledge does not abolish free decision any more than it is the cause of known events.
Finally, Augustine differentiates between “willing” as a basic spiritual faculty and the “liberum arbitrium” of decision. He regards this will as the cause of himself. Willing is differentiated according to the being of what is willed: “Right willing” is based on the order of beings and is therefore always oriented towards the highest being. He starts from the determination by the strongest motive. The "bad will" is what upsets this order. The decision against the highest good is always a failure. But this willing is not an expression of power, but of powerlessness as a result of original sin. This wanting becomes wanting and wanting to have. In order to preserve the freedom of God, Augustine thinks from the Pauline doctrine of justification that only he can achieve the perfect freedom of the highest being, which God has determined from eternity to do so.
Medieval thinking about freedom is determined by two lines of tradition: on the one hand there is the mystical theology of the Christian East, which leads to Johannes Scotus Eriugena and Nikolaus von Cues , on the other hand the dialectic of freedom and grace, which is due to Augustine Wilhelm von Ockham and Luther leads. Incidentally, the discussion moved within fixed points given by Christian dogmatics, taking into account the ancient philosophers. The efforts revolved around the task of developing a concept of freedom that is applicable not only to people, but also to God, the angels and even the demons, to explain the sinlessness of Jesus while preserving his freedom and to explain the ability of man to do good To negate action independently of the grace of God and only assign him freedom to do evil. Anselm of Canterbury determined the liberum arbitrium from its aim, which reason shows and the will chooses freely.
Abelard believed that the liberum arbitrium was the ability to do what reason recognized in an unconstrained manner. The end of the discussion is Thomas Aquinas . According to him, the will is not free insofar as it necessarily strives for a blissful end. He understood the liberum arbitrium as the rational faculty of the will in relation to the choice of means to achieve an end. He did not see the goal itself as the object of the liberum arbitrium , rather it was its prerequisite.
Duns Scotus continues this approach of restricting the freedom of the act to the will itself and the intellect to the presentation of the object . He turns explicitly against intellectualism, which saw the intellect as the cause of the free act. Freedom is the opposite of natural movement, to which he also included the intellect. In itself the will is absolutely free. Not rationality, but freedom itself lift the will above all kinds of striving. With this, the thesis that knowledge is the cause or partial cause of the act of will is rejected.
Finally, Wilhelm von Ockham states that freedom cannot be proven by an argument of reason, but is established on the basis of inner experience. The freedom of God cannot be justified with the understanding, but only accepted in faith. Human freedom, however, is able to create a disposition for his firmly promised grace through perfect love for God. The liberum arbitrium is thus detached from divine cooperation and is itself the cause of the relationship to God, even if it can be traced back to God in terms of creatures.
Martin Luther turned against this view, also represented by Erasmus von Rotterdam , with his thesis of the “servum arbitrium” . He put the issue of freedom back into an exclusively theological context with other key concepts of his theology, such as assurance of salvation, law, redemption and predestination. He was thus in the scholastic tradition, in that man does not acquire his relationship with God out of himself, but is given it by God.
Early modern age
Calvin saw the fall of man as the cause of the loss of the liberum arbitrium . God's grace could, however, determine man towards the good, which still belongs entirely to the context of theological systematics. The theologian and natural lawyer Suárez broke away from this and defined the concept of freedom as the opposite of necessity. He distinguished several concepts of freedom, namely action free of necessity, which is characteristic of God and those acting out of pure love, freedom from coercion to which animals are subject, and specific human freedom which is determined by foresight. According to him, the degree of this freedom corresponds to the degree of intellectuality.
For Descartes too, freedom grows to the extent that the knowledge of what is better increases. Its basis and lowest level is indifference, which is made possible by the transcendent expanse of the will, the reason for the likeness of God, but also of error. Cornelius Jansen and the Jansenists resorted to the Augustinian doctrine of the determination of action by the "stronger motive". This movement led the question of freedom back into the psychological and physiological subject area. Hobbes finally added a political aspect to this: freedom is the absence of physical coercion. All acting according to motives is basically free. A person is the more free, the more paths he can move.
Even Spinoza uses a non-religious concept of freedom: One thing is clear, that exists solely from the necessity of their being and is determined only by itself to action. In this sense only God is free because only he is determined by inner necessity. Humans, on the other hand, are at least partially determined by nature. Only through identification with God can man free himself, because then determination no longer comes from outside. As in the Stoa, freedom is an insight into necessity.
Leibniz took the psychological side even more sharply: He rejected a “liberum arbitrium” understood as “libertas indifferentiae”, because it violated the principle of sufficient reason, which also applies to God. He will certainly, if not absolutely necessary, always choose the perfect. (Leibniz also distinguishes a hypothetical necessity in humans, if an action follows for a sufficient reason, from an absolute or inner necessity, if an opposite action is already logically impossible, that is, if your mere thought contains a contradiction. But only this absolute necessity stands contrary to the rightly understood freedom, e.g. God's in the choice of the best, but which should not be confused with that inconceivable freedom of indifference.) For humans it continues to apply that freedom is greater, the more out of reason and not acted out of passion. The will is not forced by the insight, but guided. It is the difference between causal and final determination. With regard to freedom of action, he differentiated between freedom from compulsion and freedom to act. The first distinguishes the healthy from the sick, the second the rich from the poor. The rich have more options.
In the period that followed, the concept of freedom to act or not to act remained. Finally, Joseph Priestley advocated radical determinism in that the will was subject to the law of causation and decisions were traced back to the states of the brain. With Voltaire , too , freedom is only the ability to act. David Hume , on the other hand, said that the law of causation in the decision is only given statistically. There is no metaphysical necessity excluding freedom. But the institute of punishment presupposes a correlation between character and act.
For Rousseau , free will is a requirement of theodicy so that God does not become the author of evil, and it is also a prerequisite for morality. He considered mechanistic determinism a consequence of the silent conscience. Freedom, according to him, was the lack of attachment to nature through instinct. He distinguished between a “natural freedom”, which is only limited by one's own ability, and a “moral freedom”, which makes people master of themselves through obedience to the law that one has given oneself. In between, he set civil liberty through the contractual waiver of civil liberty in favor of all. But this was irretrievably lost in Europe.
Immanuel Kant distinguished between “psychological” and “transcendental” freedom. The psychological freedom was the inner chain of motives and actually determined. He called transcendental freedom the ability of a being to begin an action by itself. In addition to this theoretical distinction, he also knew practical freedom . That freedom is the prerequisite for the ascription of actions in morality, that is, of merit and guilt (thus also of just reward and punishment). The necessity of the moral law as the supreme practical law for reasonable beings compels one to see that one must attach freedom from natural causality to the will. Because the causality of the will itself is to be thought of as a causality out of freedom.
Kant resolved the resulting contradiction to determination through the concatenation of inner motives by limiting the necessary natural causality to sequences of events in time, but this time does not exist in itself, but, like space, is only our way of looking at things as phenomena . (“Appearance” is not to be confused with “appearance”!) The person as a rational being, however, regards himself as a thing in himself and gives himself, detached from temporal sequence and thus not causally traceable to a natural determination, even the moral law (autonomy as Self-legislation). It creates its own character and therefore counts its actions as independent of any determining natural cause and based solely on the free causality of the will.
18th and 19th centuries
For Fichte , philosophy was an analysis of freedom. All other concepts of nature are derived from it. Freedom precedes all being, it makes itself, it is absolute reflection and its essence is the act. It means the same thing as consciousness and therefore does not stand in the way of necessity. This would also result in actions that cannot be explained from conscience, i.e. from consciousness, arising from a natural instinct. Thus freedom became the origin of the moral law.
Schelling shared this view. Freedom is not an exception to the law of nature, but the law of nature exists so that freedom can be effective at all. Freedom should be located beyond determinism and indeterminism. If actions also result from the inner necessity of a person's being, this being is not a given being. The I is posited through and in freedom. It is the point of indifference between God and nature. He later said that freedom is only a property for good and evil. For Schopenhauer there was no freedom to act, only to be. As with Kant, the character of a person is based on a timeless act of will. Intentional will is already clearly motivated and determined. A real liberum arbitrium could not be thought of because it violated the principle of sufficient reason.
Hegel defines freedom as "being with oneself, independence from others". He said of abstract and absolute freedom that if it were raised to reality, then it would mean fanaticism and terror. On the other hand, “concrete” freedom means that “the spirit is with the other in itself”, provided that he knows the other as necessary. Freedom thus became a recognized necessity for him.
In post-idealism, the transcendental component was rejected by Kant and Schopenhauer. Feuerbach considered this free will to be an empty tautology of a thing in itself, it actually meant “being in accordance with its essence”, and Nietzsche considered it an error on which morality was based. “The belief in the freedom of will is an original error of everything organic, as old as the impulses of the logical exist in it; the belief in unconditional substances and in like things is likewise an original, equally ancient error of everything organic. But insofar as all metaphysics is primarily concerned with substance and freedom of will, it can be called the science that deals with the fundamental errors of man, but as if they were fundamental truths. ”The time of mechanistic natural science began. The decision springs from the enforcement of the strongest motive, and this could even be the idea of freedom itself.
The freedom of self-development was soon tied to the precondition of political freedom, which will not be pursued further here ( Comte , Marx ). Engels z. B., like Hegel, viewed freedom as an insight into necessity. This dialectically formulated concept of freedom can then also be read in reverse: Knowledge (insight) into the actually given conditions (necessity) only enables free will; d. H. to decide for or against what is necessary, to do or not to do what is necessary. A volitional decision without insight into necessity cannot therefore be free; is self-deception or a manipulated act of will.
Henri Bergson found a new approach: For him, the antithesis of determinism and indeterminism was based on a spatial conception of time, according to which moments experienced one after the other are presented objectively and externally one after the other. Freedom, according to him, was a quality of the action itself and not a relationship of the action to something that it could have been. For him, freedom was a relationship between “I” and action. Then we are free when our actions grow out of our entire personality. With Nicolai Hartmann , who went back to Kant, the discussion of the concept of freedom ended in a “metaphysical residual problem”, which consisted in the fact that independence from the causal nexus is only required through a further determination, namely the final one through the realm of values. However, the remaining metaphysical problem is that freedom requires an autonomy in relation to these values.
Wilhelm Dilthey fought against naturalistic ideas that lead the will back to principles of causality by countering them with a life-philosophy basis. Based on the full breadth of our experience of consciousness, human freedom shows itself in the interplay of cultural facts, ideas and perceptual habits and the creative and spontaneous behavior towards them. Naturalistic worldviews , which reduce people to causal principles, are also rooted in this free context of life . The mistake lies in accepting them as objective truths and not recognizing their origin in human freedom.
Quantum physics also began to influence the discussion. Some philosophers began, from the point of view of the uncertainty relation , to ascribe an analogous “will” to the elementary particles. Marcuse sees the contrast to freedom in the “repressive reason of the reality principle”. This arises from the flight of science into the empiricism of the measurable and its fear of value judgments. Freedom in reality is a liberation from the applicable reality. Essentially, his concept of freedom is political.
In Heidegger's work , his concept of freedom changed. In Being and Time , he was particularly concerned with death. It is the basic mood of fear that brings death to mind and thus frees people to recognize and consciously shape their life as finite. With regard to his existence, man has always been thrown into a culture and an age , which gives his possibilities for shaping life a framework that Heidegger calls fate . Heidegger later deals with the connection between freedom and causality. He points out that earlier theories of freedom always defined freedom only as a reverse causality, namely as a consequence without a cause: “Starting from oneself [sc. Kant] only gives the negative characteristic of freedom [...] “For Heidegger, the mistake lies in determining the being of human beings only according to categories that were obtained on the basis of the causal-mechanical nature. Instead, the human being's own way of being must be considered, which lies in freedom and thus only enables free behavior towards beings. Heidegger differentiates between three “ways of founding”: (1) Design : People always design their way of life for the world as a whole. (2) Taking soil : In doing so, it is bound to the material, social and spiritual-cultural circumstances. It is only from these two aspects that a social constellation emerges which (3) demands the justification of statements and at the same time represents a conception of beings in which a reason (as cause) can always be shown. For Heidegger, the first two ways of founding a company are rooted in freedom and are the origin of a conception that can turn against free will. The “principle of reason” as a principle thus itself arises from human freedom to determine the being of beings. With this reference to freedom, Heidegger is not attempting to trace the "principle of reason" back to a fixed understanding principle - this itself would be a justification for the "principle of reason", which arises from freedom. At the same time, it is only freedom that gives the opportunity to adhere to the “principle of reason” and thus to deny any freedom of will. Heidegger sums this up in the catchy phrase "Freedom is the reason of the reason."
Sartre , too , does not see freedom as a quality of human beings, but rather as exposing human nature, as existence. “As such, I am necessarily conscious of freedom.” It is not a property of will, but will already presuppose freedom. Freedom is therefore a task for people and at the same time their dignity. But this freedom also causes fear. Man is condemned to be free.
Recently, Julian Nida-Rümelin has once again turned to the problem of free will. In his essays he describes the development process in his psychological development and emphasizes the necessity of freedom as a prerequisite for responsibility. He only deals with the arguments of the neurosciences in the afterword. He does not ask whether freedom is at least partially a creatio ex nihilo and how such a responsibility can then generate.
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- De Spiritu et littera n.5
- De Spiritu et littera. n.5
- De diversis quaestionibus ad Simplicianum I, 2 n 10
- De libertate arbitrii, chap. 3.
- Introductio ad theologiam , Book III. Cape. 7th
- Summa theologica I, 81-83.
- Balic, Additiones magnae p. 299
- Qodlibetum I. Quaestio 16
- “ Furthermore, at this point we understand free will as a force of human will through which man could turn to that which leads to eternal salvation, or could turn away from it. “( De libero arbitrio I a 10).
- In his work De servo arbitrio this is the main theme.
- Institutio II, 2.
- Disputatio XIX, Section 2, No. 9
- Fourth meditation
- Spaemann Sp. 1090
- De cive c. 9 sect. 9
- Ethica I, def. 7th
- Writings Vol. 7 p. 109 f.
- Writings Vol. 7 p. 164.
- Writings Vol. 7 p. 160.
- The Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity
- Traité de métaphysique p. 187
- A Treatise of human nature and Dialogues concerning natural religion, pp. 181 ff.
- Discours sur l'inégalité
- Contrat social
- Critique of Pure Reason, Transcendental Methodology, The Canon of Pure Reason, first section: On the ultimate purpose of the pure use of our reason B 826 (II, p. 672)
- Critique of Pure Reason, Transcendental Dialictics, Third Antinomy B 472 ff. (II p. 426 ff.)
- Critique of Practical Reason, Analytics, Critical Illumination of the Analytics of Pure Practical Reason A 168 (IV p. 218)
- Critique of Practical Reason, Analytics, Critical Illumination of the Analytics of Pure Practical Reason A 176 (IV p. 223)
- Science, Section 17
- In "The System of Morality"
- Natural Philosophy, p. 370 ff.
- Price specification
- System of Philosophy. Works Vol. 10 p. 31.
- Phenomenology of Mind. Works Vol. 2 p. 453
- System of Philosophy. Works Vol. 8, p. 348.
- "About Spiritualism and Materialism", Works Vol. 10, p. 138.
- "On Spiritualism and Materialism", Works Vol. 10, p. 76.
- Human, all-too-human. Second main part: From moral feelings. Cape. 39: The fable of the intelligible freedom.
- Human, all-too-human. First main piece: From the first and the last things. Cape. 18: Basic questions of metaphysics.
- Albert Fouillée
- Anti-Dühring , chap. XI. Morality and law. Freedom and necessity .
- Essai sur le données ... p. 144
- Ethics. In the 1925 edition, pp. 621–808.
- Wenzl pp. 80-86
- Drive structure p. 186 ff.
- Cf. Martin Heidegger: Being and time. ( GA 2) p. 266.
- Cf. Martin Heidegger: Being and time. ( GA 2) p. 384.
- Martin Heidegger: From the essence of the reason . ( GA 9) p. 164.
- Martin Heidegger: From the essence of the reason . ( GA 9) p. 174.
- Being and Nothing p. 559 ff.
- Nida-Rümelin p. 161 ff.