Philosophy of Evolution: Society

Definitions and Distinctions


The human will can be defined as the spiritual appetitive faculty which tends toward the good apprehended by the intellect.37

A free act (also called a "human act") is an act that proceeds from a deliberate will, an act in which man is the master.38 Free means indifferent, and not determined to one choice, and not necessary since the object of the act is good but does not appear entirely good.39 A free act can be perfectly free, if it proceeds from perfect deliberation. A free act can be imperfectly free, if it proceeds from imperfect deliberation, done with imperfect use of reason, without full attention.40

An "act of man", opposed to "human act,"is an act that comes from man but is not free. Examples of an "act of man" are acts done without thinking, such as breathing or digestion; spontaneous acts from instinct or non-deliberate acts; or a necessary act in which the object of the act is good from every aspect, e.g., the vision of God.41

Liberty is the property of the will by which man is master of his own acts; or by which the will, given everything required for action, is able to act or not act; it is the dominative power of the will over its own act.42 There are thee kinds of liberty.43 Most important, "liberty of exercise" (also called liberty of contradiction) consists in this, that the cause, when everything requisite for action is ready, may be indifferent to two contradictories, which are to act or not to act. Secondly, "liberty of specification" implies an indifference of the will for exercising acts of different species, such as walking, eating, or teaching. Thirdly, "liberty of contrariety" is the power of exercising acts not only diverse, but also contrary, such as love and hate of the same thing. Note that the second and third modes of liberty are really the multiplication of liberty of exercise.

Note that even though the Neo-Scholastics endorse human liberty, some acts distinguished by the Neo-Scholastics are either limited in liberty, or not free. The free act can be "imperfectly free," as noted above. The "act of man" is not called free, as noted above.

Author:  John Edward Mulvihill, S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.
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