Fulvio Di Blasi discusses “Freedom’s Freedom”
Freedom and free will, or liberum arbitrium
in Latin, are not the same thing. Freedom is more general. It relates to the intellectual component of our nature as human beings. This relationship can be understood through the fact that if you disagree with me, you might try to convince me that I am wrong. On the other hand, if your computer visualizes something on your screen and it is not what you want, you don’t try to convince the computer that it is wrong. The reason for this discrepancy is that the computer works entirely on the basis of causal influences beyond its control, but we do not: we adopt beliefs on the basis of our own reasoning. From this viewpoint, freedom refers to our ability to be the sources of our own beliefs, transcending causal determination by outside sources.
Free will is more specific. This power relates to the actions that we perform, rather than the beliefs we adopt. Compared to events in the world, our actions can generate effects that wouldn’t exist otherwise. If a stone hits a bomb and causes it to explode, this happens entirely according to the laws of nature and the fixed essences of the stone and the bomb. If I decide to do something, on the other hand, I can create a new series of events, not due to my nature alone, but due to my exercise of reason. Compared to the world, my actions are never determined from the outset. This is why free will refers not to the power to assent to beliefs, but to the power to choose. It refers to our ability to determine whether our actions ever take place, and the manner in which they take place.
DR. FULVIO DI BLASI IS AN INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED SCHOLAR IN THE FIELD OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY, NATURAL LAW THEORY, AND THOMISTIC PHILOSOPHY. HE IS FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF THE THOMAS INTERNATIONAL PROJECT, PRESIDENT OF THE THOMAS INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION IN ITALY, AND DIRECTOR OF THE THOMAS INTERNATIONAL CENTER IN RALEIGH, NC.