Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Augustine of Hippo's Concept of Free Will

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The problem of free will was discussed by Augustine of Hippo in “The City of God” before the rise of Islam, and it is possible that the ideas of this Christian thinker later influenced Islamic theology, particularly groups such as the Mu’tazilah.  Augustine’s idea was developed in response to Cicero, who rejected God’s Foreknowledge of the future, meaning there would be no prediction of events, and human actions would be free.  Cicero’s argument is quite simple to understand, as it asserts that if predestination prevails, then there can be no free will.

Against Cicero, Augustine argued that God, as the Creator of all beings, has Bestowed power in them to will, but that all wills, including wicked wills, are human products because wickedness cannot be ascribed to God; that it is not then the case that since God Foreknows what will happen to an individual there is therefore nothing in the power of our wills; and that: “Prayers, also, are of avail to procure those things which He Foreknew that He would Grant to those who offered them; and with justice have rewards been appointed for good deeds, and punishments for sins.  For a man does not, therefore, sin because God Foreknew that he would sin.  Nay, it cannot be doubted but that it is the man himself who sins when he does sin, because He, whose Foreknowledge is infallible, Foreknew not that fate, or fortune, or something else would sin, but that the man himself would sin, who, if he wills not, sins not.  But if he shall not will to sin, even this did God foreknow.”


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