JMC : Logic and Mental Philosophy / by Charles Coppens, S.J.

Chapter III.
Sensible and Rational Appetite.

191. Appetite, in its widest sense, was, in the language of the Schoolmen, any tendency of a being towards a good suitable to its nature: (a) If the being does not apprehend the good to which its nature inclines it, its appetite was by them called natural; such is the tendency of a stone to fall down to the ground, of a plant to grow and produce fruit, the result being intended by the Creator. (b) If it apprehends the good by sense, the appetite is sensible. (c) If by reason, it is rational appetite or will. In English we never use the term appetite except for the tendency to sensible or to rational good.

192. The natural appetite of a being tends to what is essentially good for that being as a whole, and for the species; the sensible and rational appetites tend to the special good of sense and of reason; they are two distinct faculties, differing by their formal objects, viz., sensible and intellectual good.

193. An act is called spontaneous whenever the principle giving rise to it is in the agent; thus, all vital acts are spontaneous. In a stricter sense, however, only the acts of sensible appetite are called spontaneous; the acts of the rational appetite or will are termed voluntary. Now, voluntary is not the same as free; thus we voluntarily desire happiness, but we are not free to desire it or not.

194. Freedom is the absence of constraint. The absence of extrinsic constraint is liberty from coercion; even brutes may enjoy this. The absence of intrinsic constraint is freedom from necessary action. This last is freedom or liberty properly so called: it enables our will to choose for itself between two alternatives; it is also styled liberty of indifference.

195. Sensible appetite as such, whether in man or brute, is not truly free; it is, indeed, free from extrinsic constraint. but not from intrinsic necessity. The reason is that its action is organic, the heart probably being its organ; and all organic action is subject to the physical laws of the material creation. When, therefore, an object is apprehended by sense as good, or delectable, or when the phantasm of such an object is aroused in the animal, the sensible appetite must, by a physical necessity, tend to that delectable good. Brutes, therefore, are entirely irresponsible for their appetites.

196. But man has an indirect power of controlling, to a certain extent, the workings of his sensible appetites; and he is in duty bound to regulate them by the law of reason. For good order requires that the superior faculty shall role the inferior. Now, man can indirectly control his animal appetites in various ways: 1. He can avoid such external objects as would excite his appetites. 2. He can use in their stead objects that will affect him differently. 3. Even when he cannot change his material surroundings, he can recall phantasms of a different tendency. 4. He can withdraw his attention from any particular objects or phantasms. 5. He can often, by a powerful effort of his will, compel his sensible appetites to a reluctant obedience. 6. He can control his members so as not to yield obedience to his animal appetites.

197. The essence of liberty consists in this, that, when everything is ready for action, the will has still a choice of its own with regard to the action. Man can exercise that choice in various ways: be may choose to act or not to act, to take one thing or its contrary, or to select between things not opposite to each other; technically he has liberty of contradiction, liberty of contrariety, and liberty of specification.

198. Thesis XI. The will of man is free, not only from coercion, but also from necessary action.

Explanation. We do not maintain that we are always free in every respect -- for instance, we cannot help desiring our own happiness -- but we are free with regard to particular means of seeking our happiness. The liberty of man is true liberty, in the meaning explained in the preceding paragraph.

Proof 1. We have a clear and invincible consciousness that we often will things when we could restrain ourselves from willing them, or could will something different or the contrary of them. We experience this consciousness: (a) Before we make our choice, when we notice that we could delay our choice and take longer time to consider, or act at once without further delay; even when we are going to act, we know that we can take one thing or another. (b) In the act of choosing we distinguish between necessity and free choice; when we choose freely, we are conscious that our decision is our own, of which we assume the responsibility, and that we could, if we would, choose differently. (c) After our choice, we are conscious that we have done morally well or ill, that we have reasons for self-reproach or for self-approbation. Now, consciousness is an infallible motive of certainty. (Logic, No. 116.)

Proof 2. We judge without any fear of error that others also are responsible for their choice. All men agree with these judgments -- witness the laws, tribunals, histories, etc., of all nations.

Proof 3. When we submit one of our free acts to a scientific analysis, we understand that it must be free. For the will is presented by the intellect with the choice between things which the intellect proposes as desirable in some respects and not desirable in other respects, and not necessary just now. Our intellect does not then compel the assent of the will to any particular choice; still, our choice is made; the reason, therefore, of the choice must be in the will itself.

199. Objections: 1. "The essence of that which is improperly called the free-will doctrine is that, occasionally at any rate, human volition is self-caused -- that is to say, not caused at all" (Huxley, "Science and Morals"). Answer. We deny it. This is a play on the word self-caused: the act of volition is not caused by the act of volition, which it would be if it were self-caused; but the act of volition is caused by the faculty of the free will. It is true that matter cannot determine the nature of its action; but it does not follow that a spirit cannot do so. Rather, from the fact that matter cannot determine its action, and our soul can, it follows that our soul is not matter; to avoid granting this logical conclusion, Huxley finds it necessary to deny the liberty of the will.

2. Consciousness testifies to the existence of our acts, not to the manner nor the causes of our acts, therefore not to their liberty. Answer. Consciousness often testifies to the manner of the act as well. Besides, we are conscious of our acts by which we decide between different courses of conduct; i.e., the direct object of our consciousness is the exercise of our liberty: we are conscious that we make a free choice.

3. We mistake spontaneous action for free action. Answer. We clearly distinguish between free and not free; thus, we do not call the pleasure free which we find in food, though our perceiving it is spontaneous.

4. We cannot help choosing what we like best; therefore we are not free. Answer. If this means that we cannot help preferring what we prefer, we cannot choose and yet not choose a thing, it is true, but not to the point. But if it means that we cannot help choosing that which holds out the stronger attraction, it is false; if it were true, no one would be accountable for his action, all mankind would be in error about moral good and evil, our own consciousness would deceive us, etc.

5. If we could choose what holds out the weaker attraction, that choice would be without a reason, but there is nothing without a reason for it; therefore we always choose what is more attractive. Answer. The reason for choosing what is less attractive is not that it is less attractive, but it is reason enough that it is attractive at all, and therefore capable of exciting our appetite.

6. Our will always obeys our last practical judgment; but our judgment is not free. Answer. Our judgment may be influenced by our free will, as when we make ourselves believe that a thing is right because we like it; in this case our judgment is free. But if the objection means that our will always obeys our last practical judgment, which is entirely independent of our will, the statement is false. We know that, when our intellect tells us we ought to do one thing, we can still do another; we can also choose what we judge to be less useful or less agreeable.

7. God knows what I shall do to-morrow; therefore I must do it. I am not free. Answer. God knows it, because I will freely do it: knowledge is by nature consequent on the fact known and does not in the least influence the fact.

8. Statistics show that the same average of crimes occurs each year, therefore such things obey a necessary law. Answer. Statistics may show some remote proportion between temptation and crime; but no more than can be explained by the fact that men, even though free in any single case, are more inclined habitually one way than another, and that there is a certain uniformity in the circumstances which tempt men to the commission of crimes.

<< ======= >>