Wednesday, January 31, 2007

More on "Freedom"

What is Freedom?

The Lay Mentality: Freedom

Revelation: “If you abide in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8, 32). This is the Magna Charta of the revelation of freedom. As revealed, freedom is a result of knowing the truth, which in turn comes as a result of living obedience. If one obeys, one becomes a disciple – or perhaps better a “Christian,” which is alter Christus – and in that experience of following Christ’s obedience that is “usque ad mortem,” one “knows” the truth of being Christ, which in turn is the state of freedom. Thus St. Paul’s assertion: “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5, 1). The freedom in “for freedom” is precisely this dynamic state. The freedom of “Set us free” is the liberation from stagnation in self. Christ has liberated us from the state of being turned back on ourselves (sin) in order that we might be self-gift in Him. To give an account of this, it is essential to move from a reductive and objectified epistemology to a non-reductive and subjective epistemology. The received Thomistic account is objectified in terms of the faculties of intellect and will as accidents of the substantial soul.

The Reductive Understanding of Ethics: Nature as Object. True but Inadequate

The Received Understanding of Freedom: Objective Epistemological Horizon, the interplay of faculties of the soul.

Within an objectified epistemology, the human person is understood as an “individual substance of a rational nature.” The acts of this substance that are not identical with its substantial being are considered accidental such as the acts of intellect and will that begin and end, and therefore are not one in being with the substance that perdures in being. Freedom is explained in terms of the faculties as accidents.
The intellect perceives being in its universality as being, and all the transcendentals such as good, true and beautiful in terms of it. Being in its universality is perceived as the necessary good that the will must desire. There is no freedom here since the will cannot but desire good, as it desires happiness. Every concrete perception of being that is offered to the will is finite, and therefore does not exhaust the will’s capacity to desire. As determined by the Absolute Being and Good, the confrontation with the finite leaves the will in a state of indetermination that is called “freedom.”
In the words of H. D. Gardeil, O.P.,

“The will is moved by natural necessity, since it is necessarily attracted by the good in general or the ultimate end. It impossible for me not to want good as such, which is to say my happiness. In this respect the will is comparable to the intellect, which necessarily adheres to first principles. Furthermore, the will is moved by necessity of the end, which means that whenever the will desires something it necessarily desires the means without which this end cannot be attained….
“Apart from things that are necessarily willed, there are countless others that do not move the will of necessity, because even without them it is possible to arrive at whatever end one may have in mind. Between them and the end there is no necessary connection it is in this area that we find true psychological freedom, namely, within the realm of goods which are not necessarily associated with the end and which may, there, be willed or not willed….”

“With respect to the subject of agent, therefore, freedom has its source in reason; with respect to the object, it lies in the contingent or particular nature of the goods confronting the agent. In terms of the object we may, as St. Thomas often does, state the argument for free will as flows: in face of contingent or particular goods the will remains free; only the absolute or universal good necessarily moves it. These two proofs, moreover, the one from the object and the other from the rational nature of man, are complementary, since the human or free act is the product of the reciprocal application of intellect and will.”[1]

This objectified presentation of freedom in terms of the necessary desire for the absolute with the resultant indetermination of the contingent, finite and non-necessary has been completely undermined by the reduction of the sensible-experiential to the radical materialism of positivism. The finite substance is reduced from a hylomorphic composite of soul and matter to purely evolved material forces that are measurable through the senses. Freedom is denied as illusory and collapses into a determinism “from below” of physical, chemical, physiological and behaviorist forces. There are no absolutes, no relative contingents, and therefore no indetermination or “freedom.” The best we have is the illusion of freedom of choice between this and that, but such choice is obviously determined by constraints beyond our threshold of perception.
Such a “self” is called “Autonomous” or “Emotivist” in the parlance of Alasdair MacIntyre. He says,

“The specifically modern self, the self that I have called Emotivist, finds no limits set to that on which it may pass judgment for such limits could only derive from rational criteria for evaluation and, as we have seen, the Emotivist self lacks any such criteria. Everything may be criticized from whatever standpoint the self has adopted, including the self’s choice of standpoint to adopt… Anyone and everyone can thus be a moral agent, since it is in the self and not in social roles or practices that moral agency has to be located.” [2]

Freedom as the Experience of Self-gift as in Christ Crucified

“The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom” (Veritatis Splendor #85).

To achieve this liberation, one must master self as in “subdue the earth,” or “self-determine” in philosophical terminology. Hence, we will see that priestly soul and lay mentality are two essential components of the same metaphysical anthropology. Priestly soul is the determining of the self to make the gift of oneself. Lay mentality is pre-requisite for such self-governance and self-possession since the freedom that is the lay mentality is the experience that thunders within the consciousness of each person in terms of responsibility, guilt, joy, sadness, etc. That is, there is another kind of experience within everyone that has been mistaken for the structure of consciousness, and that is really the ontological experience of the self in dealing with the inner tendencies of one’s very self as ontological reality. In fact, John Paul says, “In a special way, the person constitutes a privileged locus for the encounter with the act of being” (actu essendi).[3] When self-gift takes place, a relative autonomy is achieved. The goodness of the self is experienced and a true secularity of the social order takes place.
But such an act of self-determination obviously involves a meaning of freedom that transcends merely a neutral indetermination between finite choices of “this” or “that” finite good. It transcends what we may have considered “freedom” in Scholastic Rational Psychology as the neutrality of the will when confronted with finite goods. Freedom meant neutrality of the will before the finite because it was necessary determined to will the absolute. This is true within the reduction of the real as object.

“Considered biblically” (and therefore subjectively and existentially), Ratzinger remarks, “freedom is something other than indeterminacy. It is participation, and indeed, not just participation in some particular social structure, but participation in being itself. It means to be the possessor… of being. Only on this basis can indeed God be defined as freedom in person, because he is the totality of the possession of being. We can… say that freedom is identical with exaltation of being, which admittedly only makes sense if exaltation of being is really exaltation: the gift of life and being given in love.”[4]

Rather, within a phenomenological metaphysics such as Wojtyla’s, it means that one is quite literally “cause of oneself,” or even more strongly, “creator of oneself.” There is an apprenticeship in God-likeness, an approximation to becoming like God that, as creator, is not absolute, but is characterized by a relative becoming autonomous. As he says, “Self-determination reveals that what takes place in an act of will is not just an active directing of the subject toward a value. Something more takes place as well: when I am directed by an act of will toward a particular value, I myself not only determine this directing, but through it I simultaneously determine myself as well. The concept of self-determination involves more than just the concept of efficacy: I am not only the efficient cause of my acts, but through them I am also in some sense the `creator of myself.’ Action accompanies becoming; moreover, action is organically linked to becoming. Self-determination, therefore, and not just efficacy of the personal self, explains the reality of moral values: it explains the reality that by my actions I become `good’ or `bad,’ and that then I am also `good’ or `bad’ as a human being – as St. Thomas so eminently perceived.” [5]

Within the radical dependency on being created and loved by God, the only reality that I control from within as being is myself. I can control and dispose of non-rational things but I violate their natures at my own peril. I cannot impose my will on anyone else, precisely because as rational beings they experience the same responsibility of disposing of themselves as I do. Wojtyla’s assertion here that he borrows – re-elaborated from Kant – is the discovery of moral values in the experience of the being of the “I” in the moment of self-determination.

Kant, arguing from within the rationalism that has characterized the Enlightenment from Descartes to the present day, had argued that moral value was autonomous to the will, which he found “within” the practical intellect. For him “autonomy of the will is the property the will has of being a law to itself (independently of every property belonging to the objects of volition). Hence the principle of autonomy is `Never to choose except in such a way that in the same volition the maxims of your choice are also present as universal law’… (B)y mere analysis of the concepts of morality we can quite well show that the above principle of autonomy is the sole principle of ethics. For analysis finds that the principle of morality must be a categorical imperative, and that this in turn commands nothing more nor less than precisely this autonomy.”[6] This means that to conform the will to anything outside the principles of practical reason and that are part of the structure of practical reason, i.e., to the tendencies inherent in the being of person as imaging Trinity, would be “heteronymous.”

Wojtyla seizes on the insight while experiencing something different. Instead of finding autonomy in the analysis of concepts or principles of reason, he finds it in the experience of the self as being when it is in conformity or disconformity with its ontological inclinations as image of God. Hence, he finds this autonomy as moral value, the “good,” from the (realistic) experience of being a person as God is Person. Hence, he says, “we must never treat a person as the means to an end. This principle has a universal validity. Nobody can use a person as a means towards an end, no human being, not even God the Creator. On the part of God, indeed, it is totally out of the question, since, by giving man an intelligent and free nature, he has thereby ordained that each man alone will decide for himself the ends of his activity, and not be a blind tool of someone else’s ends. Therefore, if God intends to direct man towards certain goals, he allows him to begin with to know those goals, so that he may make them his own and strive towards them independently. In this amongst other things resides the most profound logic of revelation: God allows man to learn His supernatural ends, but the decision to strive towards an end, the choice of course, is left to man’s free will. God does not redeem man against his will.”[7] Wojtyla then goes on to say, “It may not be irrelevant to mention here that Immanuel Kant, at the end of the eighteenth century, formulated this elementary principle of the moral order in the following imperative: act always in such a way that the other person is the end and not merely the instrument of your action. In the light of the preceding argument this principle should be restated in a form rather different from that which Kant gave it, as follows: whenever a person is the object of your activity, remember that you may not treat that person as only the means to an end, as an instrument, but must allow for the fact the he or she, too, has, or at least should have, distinct personal ends. This principle, thus formulated, lies at the basis of all the human freedoms, properly understood, and especially freedom of conscience.”[8] He, of course, is talking about the person as a self-determining ontological reality, and not merely an object considered in the light of a universal autonomous principle of the practical intellect.

One cannot give what one does not have. Freedom of choice presupposes the determination of the self to so choose. And one can choose to make the gift of self in accordance with the truth of being made in the image of the Triple Self-Gift that is God; or one can choose self and turn back on self, for self. This is the essence of sin and the un-truth of self.
To govern self is not to be governed by anything "heteronymous." This is a word coined by Immanuel Kant that has much truth to it but used erroneously by him. Obedience is not to be caused by another but to cause self to do what another says. That causing of self is grounding act that we call freedom. The total gift of oneself to another is perfected freedom. Only the divine Persons are perfectly free. “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom.”[9]

Man is not born free. He is born with the capacity of mastering self for the gift of self. This capacity has been weakened by sin. Man cannot become free by himself. As an essentially relational being, he must be loved by another, and as such affirmed in his being as a self. No man can give himself his own “I.” It must be given to him by the love of another. In this we have the deep anthropological meaning of grace. bGrace is not a thing but the love of the divine Persons for the created person.

[1] H. D. Gardeil, O.P., “The Will,” Introduction To The Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas III. Psychology, 211, 213-214.
[2] Alasdair Macintyre, After Virtue, University of Notre Dame Press (1981) 2.
[3] Fides et Ration, #83.
[4] J. Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism and Politics, Crossroads (1988) 198.
[5] K. Wojtyla, “The Personal Structure of Self-Determination,” Person and Community Lang) (1993) 191.
[6] Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, Harper Torchbooks (1964) 108.
[7] K. Wojtyla, The Acting Person, Farrar, Straus, Giroux (1981) 27.
[8] Ibid. 27-28.
[9] Veritatis Splendor #85.

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