Edwards’s view of free will is compatible with causal
explains that there are always motives that drive us to act as we do. A
is something that the mind views as good (or bad), something that we want to
pursue (or avoid). Some motives are stronger than others. He believes that
will is always determined by the strongest motive” (15). In this sense our
actions are morally necessary: for each choice we encounter, we can ‘choose’
only to pursue or avoid the strongest motive, i.e. it is not within our power
to choose any of the weaker motives. The strongest motive causes (i.e.
determines) us to ‘choose’ what we do, rather than otherwise. Just as a
or a machine’s actions are governed/determined by the laws of nature, so are
man’s actions, at least in many cases, governed/determined by moral laws. The
only real difference between natural laws and moral laws is that natural laws
are more apparent to us than moral laws. Or, as Edwards put it, concerning
moral laws “we do not readily discern the rule and connection, (though there
a connection, according to an established law, truly taking place)” (19).
To explain why he believes our causally determined
actions still ought to
be considered free, he explains that the correct concept of
necessity/impossibility is a relative concept that “implies something that
frustrated endeavor or desire” (16). Consider the example of a choice between
eating vegemite or a chocolate sundae. Even though the chocolate sundae is
strongest motive, hence it is the only one we can really ‘choose,’ it is not
necessary that we pick the sundae (or similarly, it is not impossible for us
pick the vegemite) since there is no external opposition that would impede us
from doing so if we wanted to. Hence our ‘choice’ is free as long as it is in
accordance with our internal desires. This is also compatible with our idea
blameworthy. It does not matter whether or not a person could have done
otherwise, if he did wrong in accordance with his own internal desires, then
Philosophical necessity, on the other hand, is irrelevant
to the issue of
free will. It has nothing to do with external opposition to our efforts. It
synonymous with certainty, an absolute connection between a cause and effect.
This is compatible with moral necessity and free will.
Edwards criticizes the Arminian notion of free will,
which requires: (1) a
self-determining power of will, (2) indifference regarding the choices, and
contingence, as opposed to moral necessity.
He attacks (1) because a self-determining will is
impossible. In order for
the will to cause one choice to be made rather than another, it must also
a cause, which must have a cause, and so on. In this case, the will
itself, which must first determine itself, leading to an infinite regress.
However, if the will has no cause, i.e. it is not determined (by itself or
otherwise), then the act is also not free. In this case, the act of the will
merely accidental, the individual has no control over which decision the will
makes, since the will does not determine the will. (DON’T CHA KNOW!!!) I
personally am not sold on this argument—perhaps because I simply don’t
He also attacks (2) because it is counterintuitive
to think that in order
for an act to be moral it must proceed from the agent’s indifference. On the
contrary, if one were completely indifferent as to whether or not he would,
say, let the puppies boil or save them, he would be considered immoral.
This view of free will goes nicely with the Calvinist
idea that everything
is predestined and there is nothing that anyone can do about it.