Tuesday 7th July 2015

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

A Simple Solution To A Puzzling Problem

July 8, 2014 Featured Today No Comments

By DONALD DeMARCO

The problem of free will has caused considerable confusion throughout the history of thought. Does man have free will? Or is free will just an illusion? When we take into account heredity, environmental influences, emotions, the role of the unconscious, peer pressure, and other factors, we begin to understand how they bring the notion of free will into question. Do we choose freely, or is it the case that our choices are determined for us by forces that are not always or easily recognized?
Free will was not much of a problem for St. Thomas Aquinas. This is because he understood the will as the “rational appetite.” Thus, he tied the free will to reason as a direct consequence of reason. Because we are “rational animals,” we are also free. The will is the appetite that allows us to choose what reason has proposed. Therefore, we are free because we have the capacity to reason.
Reason recognizes an array of choices. For example, when we scan a menu we find a variety of items that may or may not appeal to our reason. One item is too expensive, another is not consistent with our dietary needs, and a third does not please our palate. Then, there are items that promise to be congenial to our budget, our health, and our appetite. We make our choices on the basis of what reason illuminates. We are free precisely because we are rational.
If we were simply rational creatures (without freedom) we would find ourselves in the curious situation of knowing exactly what we want to choose, but being paralyzed and incapable of making the choice. Reason and freedom are inseparable. We can choose freely because we can think rationally.
Reason itself does not pose a problem. No one questions whether we have the capacity to reason. The evidence of our rationality is everywhere. The computer alone is sufficient proof of our ability to exercise reason. Since we cannot doubt the faculty of reason, how is it possible that we can question the reality of freedom? The problem lies in the fact that even though we are endowed with reason, we do not always choose rationally. We often allow irrational factors to enter the picture and influence our decisions. As St. Paul confessed, “I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19).
St. Paul is not denying that he has reason or will. He is confessing that he not choosing what his reason presents to him as good. In fact, he is affirming his capacities to reason and choose, but acknowledges that he is not using them properly. A person may possess a rare and valuable painting without realizing it because the painting is covered with layers of grime and dirt. But when the accretions are removed, the true nature of the painting as a masterpiece is revealed.
Virtue is needed so that we have the moral strength to choose what reason illuminates as the right thing to do, in other words, what is good. The person who chooses rationally in this way realizes clearly that he possesses a free will.
In summary, we have free will because we are rational beings. Aquinas correctly identifies the will as the “rational appetite.” This is the simple solution to a puzzling problem. We can become confused about the existence of our own freedom, however, when we fail to choose rationally. As a result of repeated irrational choices, in the case of the person who is addicted to drugs, for example, that person may be acting out of compulsion and therefore no longer believe that he has a free will.
According to a Japanese proverb, “First the man takes the drink, next the drink takes the drink, then the drink takes the man.”
When we enjoy that “serenity of spirit” (quies animi) that Aquinas discusses, it should be clear to us that we are possessors of both reason and free will. One of the insidious effects of immoral choices is that we can cease to know who we really are. On the other hand, we come to know better who we are as a consequence of making good choices.

+    +    +

(Donald DeMarco is a senior fellow of Human Life International. He is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn., and a regular columnist for St. Austin Review. Some of his recent writings may be found at Human Life International’s Truth & Charity Forum.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Untitled 3

Pope FrancisAn Open Letter To His Holiness Pope Francis      Given the controversy and confusion surrounding the 2014 Synod on the Family, the staff of The Wanderer and its supporters thought it appropriate to address Pope Francis with an open letter . . .

Do You Know What’s Coming into Your Teen’s Phone?

You might be surprised at what your kids are exposed to every day   It is 11:30 P.M on a Thursday night. Your 13-year-old daughter is asleep. Suddenly she awakes to a ding from her phone. She quickly realizes that…Continue Reading

No, America Is Not a Great Nation

Here’s the truth: I am not happy with this country, and you shouldn’t be, either. I am disappointed in it. It disgraces itself. It turns from God. It kills its young. It attacks the family. Am I supposed to pretend otherwise…Continue Reading

Listen to the Pope, Iowa Catholic Leaders Tell GOP

Catholic leaders call on GOP hopefuls to heed pope’s teachings on climate, economics By THOMAS BEAUMONT and RACHEL ZOLL, Associated Press ANKENY, Iowa (AP) — Roman Catholic leaders in the early voting state of Iowa implored candidates for president Thursday…Continue Reading

Supreme Court upholds ObamaCare subsidies

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld ObamaCare subsidies nationwide, in the second major court victory for President Obama on his signature health care law. In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that subsidies are valid even in states that did…Continue Reading

Synod on the Family’s working document sets the stage for spirited discussion

Vatican City, Jun 24, 2015 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- That the discussion at October’s Synod on the Family is going to be a lively one is indicated by the fact that the most controversial paragraphs of the final report…Continue Reading

Abortion Drone Will Fly Dangerous Abortion Pills to Poland to Violate Its Pro-Life Laws

drone

The pro-abortion organization that formerly ran the abortion boat that distributed the dangerous abortion pill in international waters outside pro-life nations that protect unborn children has come up with a new marketing scheme to push abortion in pro-life nations: drones.…Continue Reading

St. Louis’ Catholic Archbishop Carlson discusses same-sex marriage, clergy sex abuse, racism, more

At their annual spring meeting held in St. Louis last week, U.S Catholic bishops discussed several issues currently facing the Catholic Church, including: the clergy sex abuse scandal, what the Church sees as challenges to marriage, and the pope’s upcoming…Continue Reading

Nienstedt resigns; New Jersey bishop named interim head of Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Archbishop John Nienstedt has resigned in the wake of criminal charges against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for its “role in failing to protect children and contribution to the unspeakable harm” experienced by victims in priest sex-abuse cases. Nienstedt says…Continue Reading

Priests needed: As Church growth explodes worldwide, parishes can’t keep up

Washington D.C., Jun 12, 2015 / 05:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The global Catholic population is growing – so quickly, in fact, that priest and parish numbers cannot keep up, says a new study on trends in the worldwide Church. And…Continue Reading

Cardinal Kasper hints at new ‘Vatican II’ strategy to gain approval of Communion proposal

June 11, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – In the face of increasing opposition to his plan to approve giving Holy Communion to people who are in adulterous remarriages, Cardinal Walter Kasper is hinting at a new “Vatican II” strategy for accomplishing his…Continue Reading

No Law Can Be Based on Injustice

In 2010, the United States Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was designed by President Obama and Congressional leaders to expand access to affordable and comprehensive health insurance coverage in the United States. After the law…Continue Reading

Cardinal: Divorced and remarried Catholics need support for conversion, not changes on communion

Catholics who have divorced and remarried need help for the “difficult climb” of conversion and spiritual growth, not a change in Church practice on the reception of Holy Communion, a prominent cardinal said. Cardinal Ennio Antonelli summarized the advice of…Continue Reading

Newsmax

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope Francis en route to Ecuador

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is en route to Ecuador, the first stage of a three-country tour in Latin America that will also see him in Bolivia and Paraguay – three “sister nations” as the Holy Father described them in the video message broadcast in the three countries simultaneously ahead of the visit. The Holy Father’s flight departed Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport (Fiumicino) shortly after 9:30 AM Rome Time on Sunday morning, and is scheduled…Continue Reading

Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI receives honorary doctorates

(Vatican Radio) Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI received Doctorates honoris causa on Saturday from the Pontifical John Paul II University of Krakow and the Krakow Academy of Music. The motivation for the honors issued by the University’s Academic Senate specifies five contributions Pope Benedict has made to knowledge and culture: his great respect for the musical tradition of the Church and remarkable sensitivity to the music of faith; the life-long and constant demonstration of a special concern for…Continue Reading

Univ. of San Francisco Celebrates SCOTUS Marriage Ruling, Despite Catholic Mission

usan

July 2, 2015, at 11:22 AM  |  By Justin Petrisek  | While the U.S. bishops responded to last week’s marriage ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court by upholding the teachings of the Catholic Church, one Jesuit university chose to publicly celebrate the decision in direct conflict with its Catholic identity and mission. Over the weekend, the University of San Francisco (USF), a Jesuit Catholic university, used its Twitter and Facebook accounts to celebrate the San Francisco…Continue Reading

‘No Global’ author at Vatican event on climate and poverty reduction

(Vatican Radio) A Catholic climate scientist and a secular Jewish feminist formed an “unlikely alliance” in the Vatican press office on Wednesday to present a two day conference entitled ‘People and Planet First: the Imperative to Change Course’. The conference, which will take place at the Pontifical Augustinianum University in Rome, includes some 200 political, religious and civil society leaders from all continents who’ll be discussing Pope Francis’ new encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ in light of…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . Serving The Cause Of Dissent And Division

By MITCHELL KALPAKGIAN The Coup at Catholic University, by Peter M. Mitchell (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2015), 311 pages; $19.95. Available through www.ignatius.com. Can Catholics be American and remain Catholic, rendering to Caesar the things that belong to him and rendering to God what is due to the Lord? Can Catholic universities be both bona…Continue Reading

Quo Vadis, America?

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN “Natural law — God’s law — will always trump common law,” said Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a Christian leader in her own right, “God will have the final word in this matter.” But, for now, Justice Anthony Kennedy has the final word. Same-sex marriage is…Continue Reading

So Now Is It “Hate Speech” To Deplore The Obergefell Decision?

By PHIL LAWLER (Editor’s Note: LifeSiteNews reprinted this article from CatholicCulture.org with permission. All rights reserved.) + + + The ink was barely dry on last week’s Supreme Court ruling when Fr. James Martin, SJ, began scolding Catholics who were, from his decorous perspective, too strident in denouncing the decision. “No issue brings out so…Continue Reading

The Popes, Marian Devotion, And The New Evangelization

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY Part 3 This is the third article in a series which looks at Marian devotion, and the New Evangelization, in the light of the teaching of recent Popes. It is noteworthy, that even before St. John Paul II became Pope in 1978, he had adopted the Latin phrase “Totus Tuus” as…Continue Reading

Although Their Adversaries Seem Strong . . . Law-School Interns Are Reminded That Even Old USSR Collapsed

By DEXTER DUGGAN PHOENIX — Almost ready to start applying their new knowledge to battle moral challenges around the globe, law-school students at a dinner here were reminded that the Soviet Union once was regarded as an invincible adversary, but it finally collapsed in relatively short order. The Christian law students from 11 countries, interns…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World . . . Legalizing Abortion And Redefining Marriage: The Anti-God Crisis

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The past week’s 5-4 Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision to redefine marriage as no longer between one man and one woman is merely the latest step in a journey away from God marked on its path through our history also in 1973 by Roe v. Wade. These two legal interferences are rooted…Continue Reading

An Apologetics Course… Why Be A Christian? Why Not Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 9 There are many religions in the world today, all claiming to be true. Many were founded by individuals who claimed to be “prophets” of God — or of the gods, depending. In this context, why be a Christian at all? Why not be a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Hindu, an animist,…Continue Reading

The Four Marks Of The Church — Holiness

By DON FIER Part 2 The second of four distinguishing marks or properties of the one true Church, as we saw last week, is that she is “unfailingly holy” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 823). Despite being composed of sinners, “the Church is holy because she was founded by Jesus Christ, who is all-holy, and because she teaches, according…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

  Editor’s Note: D.M. has e-mailed to us the following thoughtful comments: “In a recent reply regarding the bishops and our borders, you noted that our immigration system is ‘badly broken.’ To me that was a bit like hearing the proverbial fingernails on a blackboard. It seems to me that those who seek to dominate all of us use the refrain,…Continue Reading

Chosen By God

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Fifteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR B) Readings: Amos 7:12-15 Eph. 1:3-14 Mark 6:7-13 In the first reading, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel (the place of the original Temple of the Lord), chastises the Prophet Amos for preaching against the goings on in the House of God. The priest tells the prophet to go and make…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Josemaria Escriva

By CAROLE BRESLIN Part 2 With the outbreak of civil war in Spain and the attack on the Catholic Church, many priests and religious were martyred. The existing government changed the constitution to legalize persecution of the Church by closing Catholic schools, ceasing reparation payments, and suppressing religious discussion. Among other things, this helped lead to the secularization of society…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Josemaria Escriva

By CAROLE BRESLIN Part 1 God, in His loving Providence and perfect timing, gives the Church holy men and women to guide the Mystical Body of Christ. During the chaos of the Protestant revolt, he provided St. Ignatius and St. Teresa of Avila. At the beginning of the 20th century, as the lay faithful were being called to participate in…Continue Reading