Seminary/School of Divinity


Spring 5-2021

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Theology (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work



John Froula

Second Advisor

Christian D. Washburn

Third Advisor

John Martens


This thesis puts into dialog contemporary views of human freedom with Servais Pinckaers Thomistic view of freedom, a freedom rooted in virtue. His freedom of excellence enlarges the focus from the role of volition in a single atomic human act to include the effects arising from the integration of that act and subsequent acts changing the very being of the individual. We demonstrate that Aquinas’ view of the relationship between the will and the intellect possesses a complex interplay which extends to the habits, inclinations and finally the virtues. We review the philosophical landscape with particular emphasis on libertarian and compatibilist theories, both of which rely on a purely materialistic and deterministic metaphysical framing. We survey the neuroscience evidence such as Libet’s experiment and Tse’s criterial causation formulations, including Douglas Hofstadter’s simulation proposals from the field computer science and the implications of developments in chaos theory. We argue that contemporary approaches have been undermined by the abandonment of the metaphysics of man’s final ends, the felt need to maintain a false homage to an exclusively materialistic basis to man’s being, and the failure to fully assimilate the fundamental limitations of the concept of determinism. We conclude that the role of freedom with those decisions most central and most important to us as human beings is incompatible with either a libertarian or compatibilist theory but is at the core of the concerns of freedom of excellence and is compatible with current understanding of the physical universe and the neurosciences. This freedom is to be found in the virtues we acquire in part as gifts, and then practice in our daily life. Therein lies the true locus of freedom.

Included as an appendix is a review of the scholarly literature on the development of the concept of the will from Socrates to Maximus the Confessor, and an appendix that provides an introduction to the mathematics of chaos with its implication for determinism.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.