1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Will (philosophy)

WILL, in philosophy. The “Problem of Freedom” provides in reality a common title under which are grouped difficulties and questions of varying and divergent interest and character. These difficulties arise quite naturally from the obligation, which metaphysicians, theologians, moral philosophers, men of science, and psychologists alike recognize, to give an account, consistent with their theories, of the relation of man’s power of deliberate and purposive activity to the rest of the universe. In the main, no doubt, the problem is a metaphysical problem, and has its origin in the effort to reconcile that belief in man’s freedom which is regarded by the unsophisticated moral consciousness as indisputable, with a belief in a universe governed by rational and necessary laws. But the historical origin of the questions at issue is to be sought rather in theology than in metaphysics, while the discovery made from time to time by men of science of the inapplicability of natural laws or modes of operation (which they have been accustomed to regard as of universal range and necessity) to the facts or assumed facts of human activity, is a constant source of fresh discussions of the problem. Similarly the modern attempt upon the part of psychology to analyse (under whatever limitations and with whatever object of inquiry) all the forms and processes of human consciousness has inevitably led to an examination of the consciousness of human freedom: while the postulate of most modern psychologists that conscious processes are not to be considered as removed from the sphere of those necessary causal sequences with which science deals, produces, if the consciousness of freedom be admitted as a fact of mental history, the old metaphysical difficulty in a new and highly specialized form.

There is some ground nevertheless for maintaining, contrary to much modern opinion, that the controversy is fundamentally and in the main a moral controversy. It is true that the precise relation between the activities of human wills and other forms of activity in the natural world is a highly speculative problem and one with which the ordinary man is not immediately concerned. It is true also that the ordinary moral consciousness accepts without hesitation the postulate of freedom, and is unaware of, or imperfectly acquainted with, the speculative difficulties that surround its possibility. Moreover, much work of the highest importance in ethics in modern as well as ancient times has been completed with but scanty, if any, reference to the subject of the freedom of the will, or upon a metaphysical basis compatible with most of the doctrines of both the rival theories. The determinist equally with the libertarian moral philosopher can give an account of morality possessing internal coherence and a certain degree of verisimilitude. Yet it may be doubted (1) whether the problem would ever have arisen at all except for the necessity of reconciling the theological and metaphysical hypotheses of the omniscience and omnipotence of God with the needs of a moral universe: and (2) whether it would retain its perennial interest if the incursions of modern scientific and psychological inquiry into the domain of human consciousness did not appear to come into conflict from time to time with the presuppositions of morality. The arguments proceeding from either of the disputants by means of which the controversy is debated may be largely or almost wholly speculative and philosophical. But that which produces the rival arguments is primarily a moral need. And there are not wanting signs of a revival in recent years of the earlier tendency of philosophical speculation to subordinate the necessities of metaphysical, scientific and even psychological inquiries to the prima facie demands of the moral consciousness.

There is no trace of the emergence of the problem of freedom in any intelligible or distinct form in the minds of early Greek physicists or philosophers. Their doctrines were mainly Greek philosophers. based upon a belief in the government of the universe by some form of physical necessity, and though different opinions might prevail as to the mode of operation of the various forms of physical necessity the occasional recognition of non-material contributory causes never amounted to a recognition of the independence of human volition or intelligence. Nor can it be seriously maintained that the problem of freedom in the form in which it is presented to the modern mind ever became the subject of debate in the philosophy of Socrates, Plato or Aristotle. It is true that Socrates brought into prominence the moral importance of rational and intelligent conduct as opposed to action which is the result of unintelligent caprice. Moral conduct was, according to Socrates, the result of knowledge while it is strictly impossible to do wrong knowingly. Vice, therefore, is the result of ignorance and to this extent Socrates is a determinist. But the subsequent speculations of Aristotle upon the extent to which ignorance invalidates responsibility, though they seem to assume man's immediate consciousness of freedom, do not in reality amount to very much more than an analysis of the conditions ordinarily held sufficient to constitute voluntary or involuntary action. The further question whether the voluntary acts for which a man is ordinarily held responsible are really the outcome of his freedom of choice, is barely touched upon, and most of the problems which surround the attempt to distinguish human agency from natural and necessary causation and caprice or chance are left unsolved. For Aristotle remained content with a successful demonstration of the dependence of “voluntariness” as an attribute of conduct upon knowledge and human personality. And though ultimately the attribution of responsibility for conduct is further limited to actions which are the result of purposive choice (προαίρεσις), Aristotle appears to waver between a view which regards προαίρεσις as involving an ultimate choice between divergent ends of moral action and one which would make it consist in the choice of means to an end already determined. A similar absence of discussion of the main problem at issue is noticeable in Plato. It is true that in a famous passage in the tenth book of the Republic (x. 617 ff.) he seems to make human souls responsible through their power of choice for the destinies which they meet with during their respective lives. But, as with Socrates, their power of making a right choice is limited by their degree of knowledge or of ignorance, and the vexed question of the relation of this determining intelligence to the human will is left unsolved. With the Stoic and Epicurean philosophies the problem as it shapes itself for the consideration of the modern world begins to appear in clearer outlines. Stoic loyalty to a belief in responsibility based on freedom of choice appeared difficult to reconcile with a belief in an all-pervading Anima Mundi, a world power directing and controlling actions of every kind. And though the Stoic doctrine of determinism did not, when applied to moral problems, advance much beyond the reiteration of arguments derived from the universal validity of the principles of causality, nor the Epicurean counter-assertion of freedom avoid the error of regarding chance as a real cause and universal contingency as an explanation of the universe, it was nevertheless a real step forward to perceive the existence of the problem. Moreover, the argument by means of which Chrysippus endeavoured to prove the compatibility of determinism with ethical responsibility is in some respects an anticipation of modern views. For the distinction between main and contributory causes of conduct (causae adjuvantes and causae principales—the αἴτιον and ξυναίτιον of Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy) preserved the possibility of regarding character, the main cause, as the responsible and accountable element in morality. And there is much that is anticipatory of modern libertarian views in the psychological argument by which Carneades attempted at once to avoid the Epicurean identification of will with chance, and to prove the rationality of choice, undetermined by any external or antecedent necessity, as an explanation of human actions (cf. Janet and Séailles, Hist. of Problems of Philosophy—Psychology, p. 324).

It was not until the rise of Christianity as an historical religion that the difficulty of reconciling a belief in human freedom with Christianity. a belief in the Divine government of the world became apparent to its fullest extent. The Christian doctrine of the Creation at once challenged the pantheistic presuppositions of Hellenic thought and reinforced the belief already existing in will as a real cause. At the same time the dualism involved in the simultaneous acceptance of an optimistic account of the origin and nature of the universe (such as is implied in Christian theology) and a belief in the reality of moral evil witnessed to by the Christian doctrine of Redemption, intensified the difficulties already felt concerning man's responsibility and God's omnipotence. Neoplatonic philosophy had been in the main content either to formulate the contradiction or to deny the reality of one of the opposing terms. And traces of Neoplatonic influence, more especially as regards their doctrine of the unreality of the material and sensible world, are to be found everywhere in the Christian philosophers of Alexandria, preventing or impeding their formulation of the problem of freedom in its full scope and urgency. St Augustine was, perhaps, the first thinker to face, though not to solve, the true theological and moral difficulty inherent in Christian thought. Two lines of thought are to be traced in the most implacable hostility and contradiction throughout his system. On the one hand no thinker reiterates or emphasizes more cogently the reality of individual responsibility and of will. He affirms the priority of will to knowledge and the dependence of consciousness upon physical attention. He asserts also the fact that our human power of receiving divine illumination (i.e. a capacity of spiritual insight in no sense dependent upon the creative activity of the intellect) is conditioned by our spontaneous acts of faith. And he finds in the existence of divine foreknowledge no argument for the impotence or determined character of human acts of will. The timeless foreknowledge of the Deity foresees human actions as contingent, not as causally determined. But when Augustine is concerned to reconcile the reality of individual freedom with humanity's universal need of redemption and with the absolute voluntariness of Divine Grace, he is constrained to contradict most of those postulates of which in his advocacy, of libertarianism he was an eager champion. He limits the possession of freedom to Adam, the first man, who, by abusing his prerogative, has corrupted the human race. Man as he now is cannot do otherwise than evil. Inherited incapacity for the choice of good is the punishment for Adam's misuse of freedom. The possibility of redemption depends upon the bestowal of Divine Grace, which, because it is in no instance deserved, can be awarded or withdrawn without injustice. And because Adam's choice necessitates punishment it follows that in some instances Divine Grace can never be bestowed. Hence arises in Augustine's system the doctrine of Predestination (q.v.). From the theological standpoint every individual is predestined either by his natural birthright to evil or by Divine Grace to good, and the absolute foreknowledge and omnipotence of God excludes even the possibility of any initiative on the part of the individual by means of which he might influence God's timeless choice.

The medieval treatment of the problem follows in the main Augustinian or Aristotelian traditional lines of thought, though Scholasticism. successive thinkers arrive at very diverse conclusions. Thomas Aquinas, for example, develops the Platonic argument which proves the dependence of the will upon the intellect and makes the identification of morality with knowledge. Freedom exists for Thomas, if it exists at all, only as the power of choosing what is necessarily determined by the intellect to be choice worthy, the various possibilities of choice being themselves presented by the understanding to the will. And though in a certain sense Divine foreknowledge is compatible upon his view with human freedom, the freedom with which men act is itself the product of Divine determination. Man is predetermined to act freely, and Divine foreknowledge foresees human actions as contingent. Duns Scotus on the other hand is the great champion of indeterminism. Upon his view the intellect must always be subordinate to the will, and to the will belongs the power of complete self-determination. Morality in effect—to such an extreme position is he driven in his opposition to the Thomists—becomes the arbitrary creation of the Divine Will and in no sense depends for its authority upon rational principles or is a form of knowledge.

The modern treatment of the problem from Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza and Leibnitz down to Kant is too much inwoven into Hobbes and Descartes. the metaphysical systems of individual great philosophers to afford the possibility of detailed treatment in the present article. Reference should be made either to the individual philosophers themselves or to articles on metaphysics or on ethics. Hobbes is the great exponent of materialistic determinism. Ideals and volitions are upon his view ultimately movements of the brain. Will is identified with appetite or fear, the causes of which are to be found only in the external world. Descartes advocates a kind of freedom which is apparently consistent with forms both of determinism and indeterminism. He explains the possibility of error on the ground that the mind possesses the liberum arbitrium indifferentiae and can always refuse to affirm the truth of a conclusion drawn from premises which are not self-evident. And even when the presentations before the mind are so clear that assent to their truth cannot be refused, the possibility of assenting still rests with the will, which can refuse to attend to any presentation, or can refuse assent with the sole motive of proving its freedom. Spinoza is a convinced determinist regarding the will as necessarily determined by ideas. Extension, i.e. the spatial world, and the world of Spinoza and Leibnitz. consciousness are alike attributes of the one substance which can only be called free in the sense of being determined by nothing but itself. Freedom in the moral sphere consists simply in the control of the passions by reason. Leibnitz retains this attenuated belief in moral freedom and combines with it a belief in the spontaneity of moral agents in the sense that they possess the power of acting and need no other principle of action save the laws of their own natures. But inasmuch as the agreement between the acts of Leibnitz's monads is due to a divine pre-established harmony, and the theoretical contingency which in the abstract, i.e. as logically possible, can be predicated of their acts, is in practice non-existent, Leibnitz is in effect a determinist.

Locke's treatment of the problem is in some respects more interesting than the theories of other English philosophers Locke and Hume. of his school. Freedom, according to Locke, belongs to the man, not to the will. If we will at all we are to that extent free, i.e. our actions express our purposes. If, on the other hand, we press Leibnitz's objection, i.e. that such an argument is no answer to the question whether an act of will can be free in the sense that it is not determined by reasons presented by the understanding, Locke replies that the will is in effect determined by the uneasiness of desire, i.e. by the desire to avoid pain. Hume's doctrine follows logically from his theory as to the nature of causality. If our belief in necessary connexion in the physical world is in reality an illusion, it follows that the opposition between freedom and necessity will be illusory also. On the other hand if our belief in the necessity of causal connexion is the result of custom, to custom will be due also the belief in a necessity governing human actions observable everywhere in men's ordinary opinions and practice. Contrasted with this belief in necessity the supposition we have of freedom is illusory, and, if extended so as to involve a belief that men's actions do not proceed from character or habitual disposition, immoral.

Kant's theory of freedom is, perhaps, the most characteristic doctrine of his system of ethics. Distinguishing between two Kant. worlds, the sensuous and the intelligible, the phenomenal and the noumenal, Kant allows no freedom to the natural will determined by the succession of motives, desires and appetites which form the empirical and sensuous self. But in contrast with the phenomenal world governed by empirical laws Kant sets the noumenal and intelligible world in which by a timeless act of will man is free to accept the moral command of an unconditional imperative for no reason other than its own rational necessity as the deliverance of his highest nature. The difficulties of the Kantian system are mainly to be looked for in his account of the relation between the phenomenal and noumenal world.

In more recent times the controversy has been concerned either with the attempted proof of determinism by the Modern materialism. advocates of psychological Hedonism, an attempt which at the present time is generally admitted to have failed; or with the new biological knowledge concerning the influence of heredity and environment in its bearing upon the development of character and the possibility of freedom. The great advance of biological knowledge in recent times though it has in no sense created a new problem (men have always been aware of the importance of racial or hereditary physical qualities in their influence upon human conduct) has certainly rendered the existence of complete individual freedom (in the sense in which it was advocated by older libertarians) in the highest degree unlikely. The advocates of freedom are content in the present day to postulate a relative power of influencing conduct, e.g. a power of controlling inherited temperament or subduing natural passion. Such a relative freedom, indeed, taking into account the admitted inviolability of natural laws, was from the very beginning all that they could claim.

But it was inevitable that the enormous advances made by the physical and other sciences in modern times should bring with them a reasoned attempt to bring the phenomena of consciousness within the sphere controlled by physical laws and natural necessity. There will never perhaps in any period of the world's history be wanting advocates of materialism, who find in the sensible the only reality. But the materialism of modern times is more subtle than that of Hobbes. And the determinism of modern science no longer consists in a crude denial of the reality of conscious processes, or an attempt to explain them as only a sublimated form of matter and its movements; it is content to admit the relative independence of the world of consciousness, while it maintains that laws and hypotheses sufficient to explain material processes may be extended to and will be discovered to be valid of the changing sequences of conscious states of mind. Moreover, much of the apparent cogency of modern scientific determinist arguments has been derived from the unguarded admissions or timorous acquiescence of their opponents. It is not enough merely to repel the incursions of physiological science, armed with hypotheses and theories valid enough in their own sphere, upon the domain of consciousness. If the attack is to be finally repulsed it will be imperatively necessary for the libertarian to maintain that no full explanation of the physical universe can ever gain assent which does not take account of the reality and influence within the material world of human power of initiative and freedom. Of this necessity there is a growing consciousness in recent years, and no more notable exposition of it has been published than is contained in James Ward's Naturalism and Agnosticism. Nor is there any lack of evidence of a growing dissatisfaction on the part of many physiologists with the complacent assumption that the methods of physical science, and particularly the conception of causal activity common to the sciences which study inorganic nature, can be transferred without further criticism to the examination of life and mind. Meanwhile the scientific onslaught upon the libertarian position has been directed from two chief quarters. It has been maintained, on the one hand, that any theory which presupposes a direct correspondence between the molecular movements of the brain, and the states of consciousness which accompany them must make the freedom of the will impossible. On the other hand it is asserted that quite apart from any particular view as to the relation between mind and body the existence of the freedom of the will is necessarily incompatible with the principle of the conservation of energy and is therefore in direct contradiction to many if not most of the assured conclusions of the physical sciences.

As regards the first of these two main contentions, it must suffice here to point out the main difficulties in which a Objections to materialism. determinist and especially materialist account of the relation between consciousness and the organic processes which accompany it appears to be involved. The arguments of thorough-going materialism can in most cases be met with a direct negative. No kind of evidence can be adduced sufficient to prove that consciousness is a secretion of the brain, an effect or even a consequent of material processes or modes of motion. No direct causal relationship between a molecular movement and a state of consciousness has ever been established. No physiologist has ever claimed the power to prophesy with any approach to accuracy the future mental states of any individual from an examination of his brain. And, though some kind of correspondence between the physical and conscious series of states has been observed and is commonly taken for granted in a number of instances, proof that entire correspondence exists is still wanting, and the precise kind of correspondence is left undetermined. Nevertheless, the belief that material processes must be held sufficient to account for material changes in the human organism as in all other regions of the material world, can be held quite independently of any particular theory as to the relation between mind and body, and in nwny of its forms is equally destructive of a belief in the freedom of the will. It is a belief, too, which is increasingly prevalent in modern science. The theory of psychophysical parallelism involves no doubt in the minds of the majority of its upholders the further assumption of some unity underlying both the physical and psychical series which may one day be discovered to be susceptible of scientific expression and interpretation. Certainly without some such assumption the hypothesis of an exact correspondence between the series described as parallel becomes, as Professor Ward has shown, unmeaning. And many scientific thinkers, while professing allegiance to a theory which insists upon the independence of each parallel series, in reality tacitly assume the superior importance if not the controlling force of the physical over the psychical terms. But a mere insistence upon the complete independence of the physical series coupled with the belief that its changes are wholly explicable as modes of motion, i.e. that the study of molecular physics is competent to explain all the phenomena of life and organic movements, is sufficient to eliminate the possibility of spontaneity and free origination from the universe. For if consciousness be looked upon as simply an epiphenomenon, an unaccountable appearance accompanying the succession of material changes, the possibility either of active interference by human volition at any point within the physical series or of any controlling or directing efficacy of consciousness over the whole set of material changes which accompany its activity becomes unthinkable. There are, nevertheless, serious difficulties involved in the supposition that the changes in the brain with which physiology and the biological sciences deal can be satisfactorily explained by the mechanical and mathematical conceptions common to all these sciences, or, indeed, that any of these organic changes is susceptible in the last resort of explanation derived from purely material premises. The phenomena of life and growth and assimilation have not been satisfactorily explained as mechanical modes of motion, and the fact that identical cerebral movements have not been discovered to recur makes scientific and accurate prediction of future cerebral changes an impossibility. But more convincing than most of the philosophical arguments by which the theories of psychophysical parallelism have been assailed is the fact that it runs counter to the plain evidence of the ordinary consciousness. No matter to what extent the unphilosophical thinker may be under the influence of materialistic presuppositions, he always recoils from the conclusion that the facts of his mental life have no influence upon his physical movements. Meaning, design and purpose are to him terms far more explanatory of his movements in the outer world than the mechanical and mathematical equivalents to which his actions will ultimately be reduced if the sciences should achieve their avowed purpose. To regard himself as a conscious automaton he can never be persuaded. Further, he finds in the series of antecedents and consequents capable of mathematical and spatial determination, which certain men of science present to him as their final account of his physical and psychical history, no real explanation of the facts: he is far more inclined to look for an explanation of the efficacy of causal changes in the categories of will and purpose for which they are a substitution.

Nor, finally, is the last defensive position of scientific determinism—the theory, namely, that the freedom of the will is incompatible with the doctrine of the conservation of energy—to be accepted without question. That doctrine, if it is to possess cogency as a proof of the impossibility of the libertarian position, must assume that the amount of energy sufficient to account for physical and psychical changes is constant and invariable in quantity, an assumption which no scientific investigator is competent to prove. A regulative principle which may possess great value when applied and confined to the comparatively abstract material of the mathematical and quasi-mathematical sciences is highly dangerous if extended to the investigation of living bodies. “In its present form, and since the development of the mechanical theory of heat, the principle of the conservation of energy certainly seems to apply to the whole range of physico-chemical phenomena. But no one can tell whether the study of physiological phenomena in general, and of nervous phenomena in particular, will not reveal to us, besides the vis viva or kinetic energy of which Leibnitz spoke, and the potential energy which was a later and necessary adjunct, some new kind of energy which may differ from the other two by rebelling against calculation” (Bergson, Time and Free Will, Eng. trans. by F. L. Pogson, pp. 151, 152).

It is, however, from the development of the scientific study of psychology more than from any other region of thought Modern psychology. that light has been thrown upon the problem of freedom. The determinist presuppositions of psychology (determinist because they involve the application of the causal conceptions of modern science to mental phenomena) have in many instances in no way retarded the utilization of new information concerning mental processes in order to prove the reality of freedom. Bergson is perhaps the most notable instance of a philosopher fully conversant with psychological studies and methods who remains a convinced libertarian. But the contribution made by psychology to the solution of the problem has taken the form not so much of a direct reinforcement of the arguments of either of the opponent systems, as of a searching criticism of the false assumptions concerning conative processes and the phenomena of choice common alike to determinists and libertarians. It has already been pointed out that the problem as it presented itself to utilitarian philosophers could lead only to a false solution, depending as it did upon a wholly fictitious theory as to the nature of desire. There are still many traces to be found in modern psychology of a similar unreal identification of desire with will. But, nevertheless, the new light thrown upon the unity of the self and the more careful and accurate scrutiny made by recent psychologists of the phenomena of decision have rendered it no longer possible either for determinists to deny the fact of choice (whatever be their theory as to its nature) or for libertarians to regard the self or the will as isolated from and unaffected by other mental constituents and antecedents, and hence, by an appeal to wholly fictitious entities, to prove the truth of freedom. The self or the will can no longer be looked upon as possessing a kind of imperium in imperio, “this way and that dividing the swift mind.” And if freedom of choice be a possibility at all, it must in future be regarded as the prerogative of a man's whole personality, exhibited continuously throughout the development of his character, displayed to some extent in all conscious conative processes, though especially apparent in crises necessitating deliberate and serious purpose. The mistake of earlier advocates of determinism lay in the supposition that self-conscious moral action could be explained by the use of the same categories and upon the same hypotheses usually considered sufficient to explain the causal sequences observable in the physical world. Conduct was regarded as the result of interaction between character and environment; or it was asserted to be the resultant effect of a struggle between motives in which the strongest prevailed. And the libertarian critic had before him a comparatively easy task when he exhibited the complete interdependence of character and environment, or rather the impossibility of treating either as definite and fixed factors in a process explicable by the use of ordinary scientific categories.

It was not difficult to show that motives have meaning only with reference to a self, and that it is the self which alone has power to erect a desire into a motive, or that the attraction of an object of appetite derives much of its power from the character of the self to which it makes its appeal. What is possibly not so obvious is the extent to which libertarians have themselves been guilty of a similar fallacy. It is comparatively unimportant to the determinism whether the cause to which he attributes conduct be the self, or the will, or character, or the strongest motive, provided that each of these causes be regarded as definitely ascertainable and that its effects in sufficiently known circumstances be calculable. It is possible to treat will as a permanent cause manifesting itself through a series of sequent changes, and obedient to the laws which govern the development of the personality of the single individual.

And the libertarian, by his arguments showing that appeal must be made to an act of will or of the self in the explanation Objections to libertarianism. of the phenomena of choice, does nothing directly to disprove the truth of such a contention. If, however, it be argued by libertarians that no explanation is possible of the manner in which the self or the will makes its decisions and inclines to this motive or to that, while they still assert the independent existence of the self or will, then they are undoubtedly open to the retort of their opponents that upon such a theory no rational explanation of conduct will be possible. For to regard a particular decision as the effect of the “fiat” of a self or will unmotived and uninfluenced by the idea of a future object of attainment seems to be equivalent to the simple statement that the choice was made or the decision taken. Such a theory can prove nothing either for or against the possibility of freedom.

Moreover, many of the arguments by which the position of rigid libertarians of the older school has been proved untenable Idealism. have been advanced by moral philosophers, and by thinkers not always inclined to regard psychology with complete sympathy. The doctrine of self-determination, advocated by T. H. Green and idealist writers of his school, has little or nothing in common with the doctrine that the self manifests its freedom in unmotived acts of will. The advocates of self-determination maintain that conduct is never determined, in the sense in which, e.g. movements in the physical world are determined, because man in virtue of his self-consciousness has a power of distinguishing himself from, even while he identifies himself with, a purely natural object of desire; and this must always make it impossible to regard him as an object governed by purely natural forces. Consciousness and especially self-consciousness, can never be explained upon hypotheses adequate only to explain the blind working of the unconscious world. But the insistence of idealist writers upon the relation of the world of nature to conscious intelligence, and especially to a universal consciousness realizing itself throughout the history of individuals, rendered it alike impossible to deny altogether some influence of environment upon character, and to regard the history of individual willing selves as consisting in isolated and unconnected acts of choice. Self-consciousness, if it be conceived as distinguishing itself from its past history or from the natural world, must be conceived also as in some sense related to the empirical self which has a history in time and to the natural organism in which it finds a home. It is the precise mode of this relation which idealist philosophers leave obscure.

Nor is that obscurity to any appreciable degree illuminated by the tendency also noticeable in idealist writers to find the true possession of freedom only in a self emancipated from the influence of irrational passion, and liberated by knowledge from the dominion of chance or the despotism of unknown natural forces. Here also psychology, by its elucidation of the important part which instinctive appetites and animal impulses play in the development of intelligence, still more perhaps by arguments (based largely upon the examination of hypnotic subjects or the phenomena of fixed ideas) which show the permanent influence of irrational or semi-rational suggestions or habits upon human conduct, has done much to aid and abet idealists in their contentions. It cannot in fact be denied that from one point of view human freedom is strictly relative, a possession to be won only after painful effort, exhibiting itself in its entirety only in supreme moments when the self is unswayed by habit, and out of full knowledge makes an individual and personal choice. Ideal freedom will be the supreme achievement of a self completely moralized. But the process by which such freedom is eventually to be gained must, if the prize is to be worth the having, itself exhibit the gradual development of a self which, under whatever limitations, possesses the same liberty of choice in its early stages as in its latest. And no theory which limits the exercise of freedom to the choice only of what is strictly good or rational can avoid the imputation of destroying man's responsibility for the choice of evil.

But the most important point at issue between the opposing theories has remained throughout the history of the controversy, The ethical problem. the morality or immorality of their respective solutions of the problem. The advocates of either theory must in the last resort appeal to the direct evidence of the moral consciousness. It remains to give a brief sketch of the arguments advanced on either side.

It has always been maintained by convinced libertarians that without a belief in the freedom of the will morality becomes, unmeaning (see Determinism). Moreover, without a belief in the freedom of the will the conception of moral obligation upon which the existence of morality depends and from which all other moral terms derive their meaning loses its chief significance. What is opposed to obligation, or at least always distinguished from it, is that very domain of necessity within which determinists would bring the will. For even when the felt obligation is absolute, where the will is completely moralized, where it is inconceivable in the case of a good man that the act which he performs should be other than it is, there the obligation which he recognizes is an obligation to choose autonomously, and as such is distinguished from desire or appetite or any of the other alleged determinants of action. If the question be asked “Where is the evidence for this alleged freedom to choose between alternatives?” the appeal is always made to the witness of the moral consciousness itself. No one, it is said, who ever feels remorse for the committal of a wrong act can honestly avoid the admission that at the moment when the act was committed he could have acted otherwise. No one at the moment of action is ever aware that his will is being necessitated. What he is clearly conscious of is the power to choose. Any proof, in the scientific sense, that a man's acts are due to his power of free initiative would be from the nature of the case impossible. For, inasmuch as scientific proof depends upon the evidence of causality, such efforts after scientific demonstration would end only by bringing either the man's whole personality or some element in it within the sequence of the chain of natural causes and effects, under the domination of that natural necessity from which as a conscious being he is free. The science of morality must be content in its search for causes to recognize the rationality of choice as a real determining agent in human affairs. And no account of the psychology of human action which regards conduct as due to self-determination, but leaves open the question whether the self is free to choose is, so it is argued, capable of providing an adequate theory of the admitted facts of moral consciousness.

We must now consider the arguments by which determinists attack the position of their opponents and the evidence which they adduce to show that the freedom of the will is no necessary Determinist ethics. postulate for moral action. For thorough-going determinism of the older type the dependence of morality upon freedom did not of necessity prove an obstacle. Hedonistic psychology denied the libertarian hypothesis, but it denied also the absoluteness and intuitive character of moral obligation, and attached no validity to the ordinary interpretation of terms like “ought” and duty. Modern determinists differ from the earlier advocates of their theory in their endeavour to exhibit at least the compatibility of morality with the absence of freedom, if not the enhancement of moral values which, according to some of its advocates, follows upon the acceptance of the deterministic account of conduct.

If a coherent theory capable of giving an explanation of the ordinary facts of morality and not involving too violent a breach Punishment. with the meaning of moral terms in their accepted usage were all that need be required of determinists in order to reconcile the defenders of the moral consciousness to the loss of their belief in the will's freedom, it would follow without question that the determinists have proved their case. Neither the deterrent nor the reformatory theories of punishment (q.v.) necessarily depend upon or carry with them a belief in the freedom of the will. On the contrary, a belief that conduct necessarily results upon the presence of certain motives, and that upon the application of certain incentives, whether of pain or pleasure, upon the presence of certain stimuli whether in the shape of rewards or punishments, actions of a certain character will necessarily ensue, would seem to vindicate the rationality of ordinary penal legislation, if its aim be deterrent or reformatory, to a far greater extent than is possible upon the libertarian hypothesis. Humanitarian moralists, who hesitate to believe in the retributive theory of punishment because, as they think, its aim is not the criminal's future well-being but merely the vindication through pain of an outrage upon the moral law which the criminal need never have committed, might welcome a theory which urges that the sole aim of punishment should be the exercise of an influence determining the criminal's future conduct for his own or the social good.

Moreover, the belief that the justice of punishment depends upon the responsibility of the criminal for his past offences and the admission of the moral consciousness that his previous wrong-doing was freely chosen carries with it, so it is argued, consequences which the libertarian moralist might be willing to accept with reluctance. For whatever may have been the character of the individual in the past, it is possible upon the libertarian view that by the exercise of his freedom he has brought about in himself a complete change of character: he may be now the exact opposite in character of what he was then. Upon what grounds, therefore, shall we discriminate between the justice of punishing him for what he was at a previous period in his life and the injustice of forgiving him because of what he is in the present? While If the deterrent and reformatory theories alone provide a rational end for punishment to aim at then the libertarian hypothesis pushed to its extreme conclusion must make all punishments equally useless. For no punishments can prevent the individual from becoming a person of whatsoever character he chooses or from committing acts of whatsoever moral quality he determines to prefer. A similar line of argument would lead to the conclusion that the conception of the state as an educating, controlling and civilizing agency involves the belief that individual citizens can be influenced and directed by motives which have their origin in external suggestion, i.e. that the determinist theory alone provides a rational basis for state activity of whatever kind.

It might, however, be thought that whatever be the compatibility of theories of punishment or of the activity of the state as a Remorse. moralizing agency with determinism, to reconcile the denial of freedom with a belief in the reality of remorse or penitence will be plainly impossible. Nevertheless there is no tendency on the part of modern determinists to evade the difficulty. They argue with considerable cogency that determinism is very far from affording any ground for believing in the impotence of will. The belief that our actions have been determined in the past carries with it no argument that they will be of a like character in the future. Though in the future as in the past they must be equally determined, yet the forces that will determine their character in the future may be as yet unanalysed and unapparent. No man can exhaust by introspective analysis the hidden elements in his personality. The existence of feelings of remorse and penitence testify to the presence in the individual of motives to good conduct which, if acted upon and allowed full scope and development, may produce a complete change of character. Determinism is not necessarily the logic of despair. Moreover, in a certain sense the very feelings of remorse and penitence which are the chief weapons in the libertarians' armoury testify to the truth of the determinist's' contention. For they are the natural and logical consequence of the acts which the penitent deplores. Such feelings follow the committal of acts of a certain character in a consciousness sufficiently moralized as inevitably as pain in the natural world follows upon the violation of one of nature's laws. And they would lose a great part of their significance if they did not testify to the continued existence in a man's personality of motives and tendencies likely to influence his conduct in the future as they have already influenced it in the past. Nor is it possible to give any rational explanation of the idea of responsibility itself upon indeterminist assumptions. For to hold a person to be a responsible agent is to believe that he possesses a certain fixity and stability of character. Freedom in the sense of complete liberty of choice would seem to lead to the conclusion that free agents are irresponsible, unaccountable. The truth seems to be that throughout the history of the controversy the chief arguments for either side have been provided by the extreme and exaggerated statements to which their opponents have been driven in the presentation of their case. So long as libertarians contend that what alone possesses moral value is unmotived choice, acts of will of which no explanation can be given save the arbitrary hat of individual selves at the moment of decision, it is not difficult for determinists to exhibit the absurdities to which their arguments lead. It can easily be shown that men do as a matter of fact attach moral adjectives to environment, temperamental tendencies, natural endowments, instinctive desires, in a word to all or most of those forces moulding character, from which, according to libertarians, the individual's freedom of choice should be clearly distinguished and separated, and to which it can be and is frequently opposed. While it is not easy to avoid the suspicion that a choice of which nothing can be predicated, which is guided by no motive, influenced by no desire, which is due neither to the natural display of character nor to the influence of environment, is either merely fortuitous or the product of a philosophical theory.

But, as has been already suggested, the libertarian argument by no means necessarily leads to such extreme conclusions. The libertarian is not pledged to the belief that acts which alone exhibit real freedom are isolated acts which depend upon a complete change of character, a change which is in no sense continuous with, and is in no kind of relation to, the series of successive changes which make up an individual's mental and moral history. It is true that a consistent advocate of indeterminism must deny that the will is determined by motives, and must admit that no reason can finally be given for the individual's choice beyond the act of choice itself. For to give a reason for choosing (where “reason” is not merely equivalent to the determinists “cause” or “necessary antecedent”) would simply be to find the explanation of the individual's choice in some previous decision. Moral conduct is conduct which follows upon the choice of ends, and to give a reason for the choice of an end in any particular instance is either to explain the nature of the end chosen and thus to describe the choice (a process which can in no sense show that the act of choice was itself necessitated), or it is to find the ground of the particular decision in its relation to an end already chosen. But whatever be the nature of the end chosen the libertarian is not concerned to deny that it must possess a fixed determinate character. If duty be chosen as opposed to pleasure the opposition between duty and pleasure is a necessary one. The recognition of such a necessary opposition is involved in the determinate act of choice. But the choice itself is neither necessary nor determined. The belief that libertarianism denies the binding force of habit or the gradual development of unchecked tendencies in character depends upon a similar misconception. The continuity of a man's life and purposes would be equally apparent whether he habitually performed the same acts and made the same decisions in virtue of his freedom of choice or as the product of necessary forces moulding his character in accordance with fixed laws. Just as the phenomena of sudden conversion, complete revolutions of character occurring to outward appearance in a momentary space of time, are no valid argument against determinism—they may be due to the sudden emergence of elements in life and character long concealed—so what locks like the orderly and necessary development of a character growing and exhibiting its activity in accordance with fixed laws may in reality be due to innumerable secret struggles and momentous decisions, acts of choice of which only the results are outwardly apparent. The ends which at any moment the individual is free to choose or reject possess a determinate character; their existence or non-existence as possibilities Is also to a very large extent determined for him. No man can choose to become whatsoever he will, for the ends which he can accomplish are restricted in number as well as definite in quality. But the real strength of the libertarian position is to be found in the fact that consciousness is capable of distinguishing ends at all. Whenever, for example, there is an admission on the part of any individual that in any previous act he made the attainment of pleasure his end rather than the performance of duty, there is also a tacit admission that he might have acted otherwise. And the existence of penitence and remorse is not merely a sign of the emergence in consciousness of elements in character nobler than and opposed to those tendencies which once held sway. They are feelings which are incapable of coming into being at all save when coupled with the judgment, “I ought to have acted otherwise because I possessed the power.” The same argument holds good concerning our feelings with regard to the justice or injustice of punishing a criminal if we believe that his will was determined. It may be politic or expedient to inflict pain upon a criminal in order either to effect an alteration in his character or to deter him or others from future performance of acts of a certain character. But even with regard to the expediency of such punishments we may have doubts. For the very argument from the undeveloped possibilities of each man’s character by which the determinist proves the compatibility of his theory with the phenomenon of sudden conversion and the like is sufficient also to prove that the state can never be sure that the punishments which it inflicts upon the individual will have the effect upon his character and conduct which it desires. It may be replied that experience makes it reasonably certain that the infliction of certain penalties will produce acts of a certain character and that the influence of certain incentives upon conduct may be established as reasonably probable by induction. But when the data are admittedly so uncertain is a valid inductive argument of such a character possible? And even if it were what would be its bearing upon the justice or injustice of inflicting punishments at all? The unsophisticated moral consciousness will still consider it unjust to punish a man for deeds of which he could not avoid the performance, and regard the alleged desire to produce in his future life consequences favourable to himself or society as beside the mark and irrelevant to the question at issue.

At the moment of action the individual invariably regards himself as free to choose between alternatives. This immediate consciousness of freedom persists upon another occasion even though subsequent reflection upon The
free-will position.
conduct should lead the individual to regard himself as determined at the very moment when he was aware of himself as free. It is this immediate consciousness of the power of choosing between alternatives which the determinist finds so difficult to explain. He may regard it as an illusion, and attempt to prove the incompatibility of our consciousness of freedom with the facts of existence and the nature of the world. But, in ordinary cases of illusion, once let the reason for the illusion be discovered, and there is no longer the possibility of our being longer deceived. The phenomena which deceived us may continue to persist, but they no longer persist as illusory: the appearance which deceived us is seen in its true nature, even though it should still retain those characteristic marks or signs of reality which hitherto we regarded as significant of a nature which we now no longer believe it to possess. But can it be maintained that the same truth holds good of our consciousness of freedom? Is it possible to hold that determinist arguments are of so convincing a character as to enable us to perceive at the moment of action the untrustworthy nature of our consciousness that we are free to choose between alternatives and to grasp beneath the appearance the underlying necessity which rules our wills? Our actual consciousness of freedom is not seriously disputed. And though reflection upon conduct may lead us to suppose that our past acts were determined, that desire of pleasure or the wish to avoid pain controlled our wills, the unphilosophical observer interprets, in offenders against morality, such arguments as a mere excuse. Moreover, remorse and penitence are witnesses in the wrongdoer to the truth of the interpretation. On the other hand we have no such immediate consciousness of the necessity which is said to control our wills. We sharply distinguish that freedom which is the prerogative of human action from the necessary causation discoverable in nature. Within the domain of consciousness introspective analysis is unable to discover those chains of necessary sequences which it is the province of science to investigate in the physical world. And until the determinist can successfully explain to us how in a world obeying throughout its history necessary laws and limited in its nature to the exhibition of causal sequences the consciousness of freedom could ever have arisen, we may be content to trust the immediate affirmation of our moral selves.

For modern discussions of the problem consult Lotze, Microcosmus, i. 256 seq., English trans. Martineau; Study of Religion, vol. ii. bk. iii. chap. 2; Ward, Naturalism and Agnostism; Rashdall, The Theory of Good and Evil, vol. ii. bk. iii.; Taylor, Elements of Metaphysics, bk. iv. chap. 4; McTaggart, Some Dogmas of Religion, v.; Shadworth Hodgson, The Philosophy of Experience, iv. 118 seq.; Galloway, Studies in the Philosophy of Religion; Bergson, Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience; James, The Will to Believe; Fonesgrive, Essai sur le litre arbitre; Renouvier, Les Dilemmes de la métaphysique pure; Boutroux, La Contingence des lois de la nature; Noël, La Conscience du libre arbitre; Boyce Gibson, Essay in Personal Idealism on “The Problem of Freedom.”  (H. H. W.)