Augustine's solution to the problem of theological fatalism.




Hemati, Russell Danesh.

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In Augustine's dialogue De Libero Arbitrio, his interlocutor Evodius presents an argument for the incompatibility of divine foreknowledge and human freedom, a position we now call "theological fatalism." Since this position is irreconcilable with Augustine's theological commitments, he endeavors to reveal some flaw in Evodius' reasoning. The tradition of modern analytic philosophy has misinterpreted Augustine's arguments against theological fatalism, and as a result, his arguments are underappreciated and often ignored. Augustine is often characterized as accepting a deterministic understanding of free will (called compatibilism), even though the text of De Libero Arbitrio, De Civitate Dei, and several late anti-Pelagian do not support such a view. A more promising interpretation of Augustine's argument is that he endorses a version of free will whereby free actions have alternative possibilities only in reference to causation, but not in reference to foreknowledge. He argues that to exercise free will is to be the cause of what is willed. Thus, no loss of freedom is implied by advance knowledge of a volition, even if that volition has no alternatives relative to foreknowledge. This interpretation embodies a unique way to solve the problem of theological fatalism which has various benefits: it is more harmonious with Augustine's other works, it avoids various paradoxes of God's involvement in human affairs, and it can be combined fruitfully with other methods of solving the fatalism problem to make a comprehensive theory of foreknowledge, providence and free will. A particularly strong objection to Augustine's solution is that an agent cannot be truly free without the ability to do otherwise, regardless of the contents of God's foreknowledge. I argue that the important, intuition-bearing quality of alternative possibilities is the leeway within causality. Since Augustine's solution accepts alternative possibilities relative to causality (in fact giving more reasons to affirm this type of alternative possibilities), he does not compromise robust freedom of the will by rejecting leeway within foreknowledge.


Includes bibliographical references (p. ).


Philosophy., Augustine., Philosophy of religion., Omniscience., Free will., Foreknowledge.