In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

108 5 Consolidation St. Augustine on Choice, Sin, and the Divided Will To understand the adaptation of ancient philosophical concepts to changed social and intellectual purposes, what Hans Blumenberg calls their “reoccupation,” one has to be mindful of how intricately that history is enmeshed with issues of translation. In the case of the will, translation holds particular significance because it is only by transposing and reconfiguring hekousion, boulēsis, eph’hemin, and prohairesis into classical Latin and early Christian culture that the notion of the will (voluntas ) came into existence. Once established, it challenged thinkers from Augustine onward to clarify the will’s relationship to the intellect and reason. In significant measure, the lexical and cultural migration of concepts is itself a catalyst in philosophy ’s ongoing appraisal of the human capacity for conceptualization. In tracing the transposition (and partial fusion) of the above Aristotelian concepts, Charles Kahn notes that, beginning with Cicero, voluntas translates boulēsis. Merging the Aristotelian notion of hekousion—viz., an action done voluntarily but not deliberately—with voluntarium, post-Ciceronian Latin construes an agent’s simple awareness of an act as a form of intentionality. The mere fact that a deed is accompanied by the agent’s consciousness of the action is taken as evidence of its standing in instrumental relation to an underlying aim. Summarizing Stoic doctrine in his pastoral retreat from politics, Cicero thus notes how “as soon as the semblance of any apparent good presents itself, nature of itself prompts [people] to secure it. Where this takes place in an equable and wise way the Stoics employ the term βούλησις for this sort of longing; we Consolidation 109 should employ the term wish [nos appellemus voluntatem].”1 The result is a somewhat elliptic conception of the will in that voluntas partially obscures the distinction between a voluntary and a deliberative action. Only in the second case does it make sense to impute to the agent an awareness of the distinction between means and ends, efficient and final causality. Though ostensibly justified by the exact parallel­between velle and boulomai, the concurrent fusion of hekousion with voluntarium nonetheless gives rise to a conceptual asymmetry inasmuch as a link is established between willing and the strictly voluntary, “whereas nothing in Greek connects hekousion with boulēsis.”2 Willing, after all, does not signify a merely voluntary action such as reaching for an apple to still one’s hunger; rather, it denotes a choice deliberatively arrived at in consideration of an overarching good or end. A second fusion involves the translation of Aristotle’s eph’hemin, which Aquinas will later render as “in our power” (in nostra potestate [ST, Ia Q 83 A 3]), yet which early Christian theology partially assimilates to the notion of “free choice” (liberum arbitrium). Beginning with the early Augustine, this strikingly new conception is closely entwined with the notion of “will” (voluntas). In contrasting Aristotle and Aquinas, Charles Kahn observes that where Aristotle had “analyzed the process of decision-making on the basis of three or four concepts that were only loosely related to one another: the voluntary, what is in our power or up to us, boulēsis, and prohairesis ... in Aquinas all four concepts are defined by reference to voluntas, the will.”3 The result is the emergence of an entirely novel conception central to accounts of human flourishing—viz., freedom. This framework markedly differs from the Aristotelian model, in which “rational desire” (boulēsis) sets the end and judgment only affirms, as it were ex post facto, that end by means of explicit “assent” and then chooses means conducive to and commensurable with it. As remains to be seen, the agent’s relationship to the end is profoundly changed in Augustinian thought. Kahn also observes how Aristotle’s prohairesis is eventually absorbed into Aquinas’s notion of liberum arbitrium voluntatis, which consists “not in ‘freedom of the will,’ but in the exercise of ‘free choice’ by the will.” Aquinas’s term for the act proper wherein that free choice is realized—and the moral nature of the agent determined—is electio.4 Concurrently, the Stoic concept of “assent” (sunkatathesis) and its eventual­ appropriation by neo-Platonism’s postulate of an immaterial soul suggests that, in building on Aristotelian psychology, Hellenistic thought adds a crucial component to what would soon be articulated by Augustine as the idea of a responsible and divided will. For the concept of “assent” implies not merely an intellectual orientation 1. Tusculan Disputations, 4.6...


Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.