Freedom Four


Yes, “four.” Partly as a tribute to our English roots, also as a salute to July 4th, but primarily to frame the aim of this article. The aim being to dissolve the illusionary relationship of free Will. What is freedom without the Will? Is not the Will by nature free? For freedom simultaneously exists as a state of being and as such, the origin of thought and action.

Admittedly Freedom and the Will are subjects that a multitude of scholars have investigated and written about, I would be daft to think that an informal article is of any consequences. That being said, the actor is only a shadow without light. If nothing else, I desire to shed light on important Truth about Freedom and its relation to the Will.


To start, we should distinguish between the ontology and capacity or opportunity of the Will. Ontologically, the Will is inextricable from the human person. A person’s capacity may vary, whether as a result of events by design, unfortunate or fortuitous (e.g. physical disability or savant aptitudes). Likewise, a person’s environment (e. g. economic standing) affects the expression of action. For the sake of illustration, consider a goldfish’s ability to breath as “intrinsic.” The exercise of breathing may seem limited or unfair, so to speak, given particular environments or physical defects. For example, a goldfish in a glass bowl, given less space or opportunity than his cousin in the pond, seems to be limited. Likewise, a goldfish with damaged gills seems limited in his ability to breathe. But the potential for or actualization of defects is secondary to the basic idea that the goldfish can breathe, consciously or not.

The analogy breaks down, of course because a damaged gill is unarguably linked to breathing. But, as we are dealing with the Will, which is unique to personhood, an illustration apart from the thing itself (a human) is difficult.


The parallel, then, is that a human person’s Will is such that his or her environment does not directly affect the state of his or her Will. The Will is like the captain of a ship. Cliché I know, but the parallels are ideal. Anything stagnant would overlook constant movement of the Will, which is never stagnant. Likewise, the Will is the captain, not the ship because the captain decides, while the ship moves by imposition. In this way, the Will, or “inner sense” as St. Augustine describes, is the origin of direction. Things become complicated with environmental factors because the captain can Will the direction of the ship one way and position the trajectory such that the ship would comply. The key word here is “naturally,” as the nature of the ocean is unpredictable and out of the captain’s control. The point is that the direction of the ship originates with the captain. And here it is important to note that the direction “originates” and does not “depend” on the captain, since the direction is affected by environmental factors and thus subject to the waves and weather.

We should also note that the desire to move is intrinsic to the nature of the captain. The ship was not made for the anchor, or the sea. The ship was made for the captain. But not just for the captain and his whims—rather to reach a destination. And this desire for a destination is intrinsic to the captain.


Thus, the essence of the Will and its trajectory to will is constant, even though the environment varies. Waves affect the actions taken to achieve the desire of the Will. But the Will to guide, the captain’s intrinsic desire for a destination, for the Good, remains, even if the methods change. This intrinsic desire of the Will does not nullify acts against the Will. After all, since the desire of the Will is ever-present, would it not follow that action against the Will is inconsequential since environment is no excuse for the action of the captain? On the contrary, action against the Will are not to be overlooked as non-consequential. Suppression of the person’s Will is unjust for the very thing that it does—act against the Will. For this reason, the intrinsic desire of the Will for the Good is of utmost importance.

To this end Freedom is of the Will and the Will is for action by nature of being drawn by the Good (more on the importance and nature of prepositions here). And in the sense that Freedom is for, it is because Freedom is of the Will. But they are not one and the same—A = B, but B ≠ C, therefore, A ≠ C—even though Freedom is a consequence of the Will. While a person has a Will and thus has Freedom, the “Freedom” described of the goldfish in a pond versus the goldfish in a bowl is a description of the environment, not of the nature of the goldfish. The Freedom of the human person is essential to his Nature. As a final note, let us recall that the trajectory of the Will is made for the Good. But the sea is befuddling, sea-sickness is prevalent, and compasses go askew, so re-calibration is vital. That being said, land is in sight, and how Good that land is, indeed.



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