Philosophy of Evolution: Society

The Scholastic Solutions


The Neo-Scholastics have always emphasized free will.


First, given free will and liberty, is social evolution likely? It appears that the Neo-Scholastics opt strongly for free will and liberty, so that significant social evolution is not likely.

Benignus endorses free will and liberty.60 One agent, man, moves himself to judge and to choose according to this judgment. Choice is the act by which a rational agent voluntarily determines its own action by means of a free judgement. Will and intellect, together in a single act, give each other the ultimate determination required for actual choice. The intellect is the formal cause. The will is the efficient cause. The will has an absolute priority, since as efficient cause and first moving power in man, it moves itself, the intellect, and all other powers over which man has control. Since the will has absolute priority, intellectual determinism is avoided. The sufficient reason for choice is a particular good. By being sufficient, it enables the will to act. By being only sufficient, not necessitating, it leaves the will free to act or not to act, to do this or that.

Calcagno endorses free will and liberty with arguments a priori.61 His first argument, which he takes from St. Thomas (Aquinas De Malo 6. ad 7), is from the way in which rational nature moves toward something good. Calcagno argues:62 The tendency of the will to the good as such must be fully and perfectly completed, both according to the truth of the thing and also according to the way by which it is apprehended. But there are many good things in which these conditions are not verified, that is, the thing is imperfect or at least the thing is not perfectly known. Therefore, there are many good things that do not necessitate the will, and so leave man the master of his own acts, which is free will. The second argument of Calcagno, which he takes from St. Thomas (Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1-2. 13. 6), is from the way in which the intellect presents good to the will. Calcagno argues:63 The will does not move forward unless toward a good apprehended by the intellect; so the will moves toward the good proposed by the intellect. But there are many things proposed by the intellect that are good and desirable under one aspect, and at the same time that are bad and undesirable under another aspect; this can happen in all imperfect goods or in a good imperfectly known. Therefore, the will must be related to this good, either that it is able to follow the intellect in desiring the good proposed, or it is able not to follow what is proposed by the intellect and flee the thing proposed. But again, this is the definition of free will. Therefore, liberty of choice must be admitted in the will. Liberty is the answer that Calcagno gives to deny that civil societies evolve.64

Calcagno endorses free will and liberty with arguments a posteriori.65 His first argument is from the testimony of consciousness. Prior to the argument, it must be said that liberty is not an immediate data of consciousness, but is deduced from the operations. The same is true about "sensible things per accidens" such as "life," since no one perceives life directly, but easily knows a thing is alive by its immanent activity. Calcagno argues:66 Before action, humans deliberate, seek motives, and ask for advice. During the action itself, humans know that the action is the same thing in the same circumstances as what was chosen, or not chosen; and this is perceived by our senses as we smell a flower or walk with a friend. After the action, humans impute to themselves the good or bad choice. Therefore the experience of deliberation, mastery of action, and imputability all lead to the easy judgment of human free will in many human activities. The second a posteriori argument is from the testimony of common sense. Calcagno argues:67 An opinion ought to be held as true, if the opinion is constantly and universally admitted by the whole human race; if the opinion does not originate from some erroneous cause; and above all if the opinion is consonant with the principles of reason. But free will is such an opinion, and even the Determinists, who speculatively deny liberty, practically act in a way that exhibits belief in free will, such acquiring material goods, striving for rewards, and speaking of virtue and vice. Therefore, free will in many human activities is proved by the testimony of common sense.

De Finance endorses human liberty.68 He notes that the ordination of the universe to man is found in the order of essences. However, because divine action respects the activity of natures, it suppresses neither contingency, nor liberty. De Finance bases his views on St. Thomas (Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 3. 72; Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 3. 73; Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 3. 74).

Gredt endorses human liberty.69 Gredt offers three arguments for liberty. First, an argument a posteriori, the testimony of consciousness confirms free will, so that I can change my will or the object of my desire. Second, an indirect argument, the denial of free will would destroy morality. Third, an argument a priori, that an elicited appetite, following a practical cognition which is indifferent about the goodness of a thing, is endowed with liberty. But the will is such an elicited appetite, which follows a practical cognition which is indifferent about the goodness of a thing; this is because the practical cognition is about a limited good, or is inadequately proposed.

Hugon endorses human liberty.70 Hugon argues to the free will in three ways. First, the existence of free will has always and universally been maintained by all people, which is limited by human laws, rewarded by prizes and praise, and linked with the universal notion of morality. Second, humans are conscious that some of their acts are free and other acts are necessary, but this distinction would not be necessary if all acts were necessary. The third, and fundamental, proof is that the will follows the good proposed by the intellect, and although happiness is the necessary goal, the particular goals may be proposed by the intellect as indifferent; and that indifference is liberty. Therefore, a rational substance enjoys liberty.

Iturrioz endorses human liberty. In his metaphysical treatment of the definition of person, he begins by noting that a person is a rational supposit or an intellectual supposit. He adds, "Rational nature is conscious of itself also through reflection, and so it can intentionally possess itself; it is also free, and therefore a person has and exercises control of itself and its own acts."71 Iturrioz also argues a posteriori by noting the reduction of human dignity and human participation: in favor of the "state" in Hegel’s totalitarian idealism; in favor of the "nation" in Nazism and racism; and in favor of proletarian collectivity in Marxist Communism.72

Klubertanz endorses human liberty.73 Evolutionism necessarily involves the denial of freedom. Klubertanz gives a critique of this denial. Psychological determininism rests on an equivocation in the term "the greater good." The greater good could mean greater from my point of view; or greater because it is just better than the other good; or greater simply because this is the one I want.

Maquart endorses human liberty.74 He notes that liberty exists from the testimony of intellectual consciousness. Liberty is manifest when someone says, "I judge," or "He judges." The argument for liberty is that humans do deliberate before various acts. In regard to free will, we are conscious that we can choose "the other thing"; we are conscious that we are not forced; we are conscious that "we" personally have a choice.

Nogar rejects Marxist social determinism.75 Nogar says, for Karl Marx (1818-1883) "...since there is nothing absolute, eternal and immutable according to the assertion of Evolutionism, the process of becoming (evolution) had to explain the origin of everything, including the society, the morals, the laws, the philosophies, and the religions of man."76 Marx completed his Communist Manifesto in November 1847. From G. W. G. Hegel (1770-1831), Marx took the idea that all is becoming. From Feurerbach, Marx changed Hegel’s Idealism to Materialism. From Darwin, Marx got the scientific basis for his theory of class struggle.77 From the French Socialist P. Proudhon, Marx had the insight that the dialectic worked in society. From the Liberal English Economists, Marx took his main economic theses.78

Palmes endorses human liberty.79 He defines liberty as immunity and exemption from necessity in the physical and psychic order. This means freedom from coaction, or applied extrinsic force, and also freedom from the intrinsic necessity of an active potency. Palmes argues that the reality of free will is demonstrated by four different arguments: first, from human consent based on the practical persuasion of its reality; second, from facts of experience; third, by a deduction from the very rational nature of man; and fourth, from the metaphysical connection of free will with the reality of the moral order.

Secondly, do the principle modifications of rational psychic life include social evolution? The Neo-Scholastics reject determinism and do not include social evolution as a significant modification of man’s psychic life. Nevertheless, the Neo-Scholastics do admit that there are passive modifications of the rational psychic life, which can be detected by consciousness.

Benignus rejects Physical Determinism, or Behaviorism, as proposed by John B. Watson, a purely a priori theory based on the assumption that nothing but matter is real, and that all human actions are automatic.80 According to Benignus, there is no evidence, even incomplete or inconclusive evidence, for Behaviorism. Reflex action is a reality, but is not a sufficient reason to assume that all voluntary actions are automatic, and only differ from reflex action by virtue of the greater complexity of the voluntary actions. Behaviorism identifies the mind with the body, or better to say that Behaviorism denies the mind and the mental. John B. Watson, founder of the Behaviorist school of psychology, maintained at first that there was no need to consider conscious states of phenomena, and ended by saying that there are no such conscious phenomena such as feeling, sensation, images, thoughts, desires, or volutions. Watson maintained that all human behavior is merely neural, muscular, or glandular movement.

Benignus rejects Physiological Determinism, such as contemporary Naturalism, as proposed by Abraham Edel, which maintains that the voluntary actions of man are not free.81 The Naturalists hold that there is in nature a real emergence of novelty, a real evolution which produces higher levels of being and novel sets of laws which operate deterministically on these higher levels. This would prevent control of man’s own action, since man could not control the causes and conditions that determine action. With such uncontrollable conditions, man could not be morally responsible for actions that simply spring into his being spontaneously. Man would have no hope of consciously bettering society. Naturalists are not free from the dogma of Materialism.82 Regarding Psysiological Determinism, Hugon also notes that physiological conditions, passions, and inclinations can disturb reason and remove liberty in some cases, but these things cannot destroy free will.83 Hugon maintains that the physical conditions for liberty may be lacking in these cases, but the potency for liberty is not destroyed.

Benignus rejects Psychoanalytic Theory, or Psychological Determinism, proposed by Sigmund Freud, which holds that certain inner drives, "unconscious" or "subconscious," of which we are not consciously aware and influence our voluntary actions.84 This theory makes our hidden desires and fears the determinants of our "voluntary" actions. Actually, there are "bodily dispositions" resulting from heredity, illness, as well as all our past experiences, many of which have been forgotten. However, none of these phenomena are evidence against free will. Calcagno answers all the objections of Leibniz, by maintaining freedom of choice, unless the motive is perfect and perfectly known.85 Hugon also rejects Psychological Determinism.86 Palmes argues that all the rational operations of the soul are elicited by it from the intellect and the will whose operations cannot be unconscious either "in an active sense" or "in the passive sense." Actively, the will chooses the good object presented it by the intellect and cannot rationally choose something either not presented or not known as good; so in the active sense (in sensu activo) there cannot be unconscious rational operations. Passively, man cannot be moved by unconscious rational operations in the passive sense (in sensu passivo), as in by his organs of sensation, since to be unconscious passively is to be unknown or ignorant of some higher congnositive principle in the same human being; but in humans there is no higher principle than intellect and will.87

Hugon rejects Scientific Determinism. In reply to the objection that free will would cause variations and mutations in the energy forces in the universe, and consequently violate the Law of Conservation of Energy, Hugon replies, "The operation of the will does not produce any material or mechanical energy."88

Donat admits modifications of rational life due to temperament, sex and age.89 Temperament had to do with the diverse characters of ordinary appetite founded in the native disposition of the body. Sexual diversity also has an effect of diverse psychic properties. Age also causes psychic modifications. Donat notes that although these modify rational life, they can be considered "normal" modifications.90

Donat admits modifications of rational psychic life due to background or nationality.91 This can happen due to diverse social conditions, or diverse way of life. These kinds of diversity do affect rational thought, but are normal.

Palmes admits modifications of rational psychic life due to lack of attention.92 Palmes defines attention as the application of the mind to some object. Formally, attention is an act of applying cognition to something. Attention considers the cause of attention, which could be principle or secondary, immediate or remote, absolutely necessary or sentimental. Palmes notes that the force of attention is due in large part to the free will of man.93 Attention can and does influence the rational psychic life of man.

Palmes admits modifications of rational psychic life due to dreams and hypnosis.94 Dreams in normal sleep and even sleep walking occur directed, not by man’s rational powers, but by man’s sensitive powers (nisi psychismo sensitivo).95 Hypnosis could also modify rational psychic life due to power of suggestion which operates automatically and independent of the power of reason.96

Hugon admits modifications of rational psychic life due to the passions. He argues that this is a very important question because passions are able to be imputed to humans. He concludes that the sense appetite in man obeys the intellect and will, so that the superior part of man is not dominated by the passions despotically, but rather politically.97 Hugon concludes that the passions are subject to the intellect, arguing that appetites in brutes are moved by the estimative force and reason is the comparable faculty in man, and noting this is confirmed by experience.

Palmes admits modifications of rational psychic life due to habits.98 A habit is a permanent quality, stable in itself, helping a power operate beyond those things which the power naturally needs in order to act. Habits help to strengthen powers, make action easier and faster, and incline the person to be happy to perform the action.99 Accordingly, habits affect rational psychic life.

Donat admits modifications of rational psychic life due to partial illness by alteration of perception in appetite and fantasy. Appetite problems and super-sensibilty affect rational perception and become visible health problems. Donat also describes manic-depressive cases and alcoholism.100 Donat describes and notes the very frequent connection between mental illness and hallucinations and illusions.101 Hugon also treats hallucination and illusion as an aberration of faculties.102

Donat admits modifications of rational psychic life due to partial illness by alteration of intellect and will in moral derangement.103 This "moral dementia" happens when a subject uses good intelligence in other things, but lacks all judgment and feeling in moral matters. There is a debate as to whether this condition is actually part of some larger mental illness.

Palmes admits modifications of rational psychic life psychic abnormalities and pathologies.104 Psychic illnesses and complexes are admitted both commonly and by psychologists. Regarding the definition of various psychic illnesses clarity and uniformity are hard to obtain. It is very clear in these cases that there is a serious, often severe, influence of these maladies on rational conscious life. Hugon notes insanity that is general and permanent may cause the use of reason not to be under the control and power of free will.105

Palmes admits modifications of rational psychic life due to "subconscious" (which is defined as imperfectly conscious) states.106 In the rational psychic process of humans, not everything is apprehended with the same clarity and distinction, nor can the mind avoid all distractions. So it happens that many things, even if not outside the limits of consciousness, would be certainly obscure or would certainly be on the margin of consciousness. Therefore, these things can be called subconscious (that is, imperfectly conscious), and can occur very frequently.107

Third and finally, is the concept of evolution applied to the human society equivocal?108 Equivocal indicates predication where the verbal term is identical, but the concepts have no connection in the mind.109 Nogar says, "These papers (at the Darwin Centennial Celebration at the University of Chicago in 1959 composed of fifty international experts on evolution reporting) on cultural anthropology, archaeology, psychology and language not only show this radical change in the concept of evolution as it is applied to man, but they even show a strong tendency to ignore the concept of man’s prehistory and concentrate upon man as he is now known to be fashioner of his own future."110 Darwin does not impose evolution on a grand scheme of biological, or cosmic, history but the origin of the species.111 The general meaning of the term "evolution" is tied to biological transformation of species by mutation and natural selection, as Mondin clearly states: "Life is a biological phenomenon in the strict sense...Here we don’t consider life: spiritual, moral, social..."112 Philosophical Evolutionism may attempt to extend that meaning.113 Herbert Spencer and some others wish to extend the term "evolution" to the level of a universal law that pertains to all transformation in the universe. Those followers of Darwin, notably Huxley and Spencer in England and Hackel in Germany, made unwarranted extensions of the theory into fields of philosophy and ethics. The extension of "evolution" is not univocal, as explained by Norgar.114 The extension of "evolution" is not analogous, as explained by Renard.115 The extension of "evolution" is equivocal, as explained by Nogar.116

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