Augustine's Way into the Will: The Theological and Philosophical Significance of De Libero Arbitrio

By Simon Harrison | Go to book overview

8
Conclusion

To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle
George Orwell, Tribune, 22 March 1946

This work is intended as a contribution to the understanding of lib.arb. and thereby also to the understanding of Augustine’s thinking about the will. I hope that I have shown that some things that might have appeared obvious (such as ‘Evodius’) are not so obvious, and that some things whose self-evidence may have been obscured (the unity of the text) are self-evident, and that they are all the less trivial for being so. Indeed what began as a study of what might be thought to be less than obvious—uoluntas in a text from late antiquity—has become something of a study in the self-evident, or rather, a study in the struggle to see the self-evident.

For Augustine, one’s freedom and responsibility is, indeed, if only one could see it, in front of one’s nose. It is elucidated by means of a process of calling the notion of uoluntas into question (i don’t know’). This process gives rise to an understanding of uoluntas, freedom, and responsibility, as the condition for the possibility of knowledge. From this starting point, agency, internal and external, action, and passion are redefined. No further knowledge, it is claimed, is, therefore, going to be able to do away with this uoluntas. It is this process that is most like the cogito-like arguments found elsewhere in Augustine.

However, the argument that reveals uoluntas is also unlike a cogito: whereas the cogito reveals something simply undeniable, my existence, the argument of lib.arb. 1.12.25, depends on the very possibility of denying that I have will. It is the choice, the choice between what I called ‘the abyss’ and the desire to know, that is inescapable. One’s

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Augustine's Way into the Will: The Theological and Philosophical Significance of De Libero Arbitrio
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface and Acknowledgements vi
  • Contents ix
  • List of Figures and Tables xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Dissecting de Libero Arbitrio 17
  • 3 - The Integrity of de Libero Arbitrio 28
  • 4 - Approaching the Will 63
  • 5 - Understanding, Knowledge, and Responsibility 81
  • 6 - Facilitas, Difficultas, and Voluntas 112
  • 7 - A Cogito-like Argument? 131
  • 8 - Conclusion 151
  • Appendix 1 153
  • Appendix 2 - The ‘Rule of Piety’ (a Note on the Text Oilib.Arb. 3.5.12) 166
  • Bibliography 171
  • Index Locorum- De Libero Arbitrio 183
  • Index Locorum- Augustine, Other Works 185
  • General Index 187
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