Saint Augustine's Deduction that Free Will is a Good Gift from God
Before the central theme of this essay is analytically summarized, it
is important to note a few propositions already established in the
conversations between Saint Augustine and Evodius. Firstly, Saint
Augustine has already ascertained that God gave human beings free
choice of the will – Evodius is also sure of this proposition. He
deduces that since our existence came from God, then it must be God
who gave us free will. Secondly, Augustine then questions Evodius on
how he knows that our existence comes from God. His answer begs the
question as he states that our existence must come from God since he
punishes the unjust and rewards those who are good.
Another proposition that must be established before the crux of the
argument may be presented is that although God gave human beings free
will, we must use it to live rightly. This again is resting on the
assumption that God rewards the just and punishes those who use their
free will to sin. Augustine proposes that God does not punish those
who live rightly. Moreover, if free will was intended for living
rightly and unjustly, then punishment of those who sin and reward for
those who live rightly would not be justified. Therefore, Saint
Augustine concludes that free will must have been given to humans by
God for the purpose of living rightly.
This leads to the crux argument discussed between Saint Augustine and
Evodius that free will is a good gift from God. The argument may be
summarized as follows: 1) All good things come from God, 2) God gave
humans free will, therefore, 3) free will is a good thing from God.
Although the argument is sound, it is not completely valid. Evodius
notes that our free will could also be used wrongly. This jeopardizes
the second proposition that all good things come from God. Augustine
rebuts this argument of Evodius by giving another example. He states
that a great good is missing from the body with no hands and yet
people can use their hands wrongly (i.e., by committing
violent/shameful acts). Augustine is still begging the question. He
states that it is better to have something which be used for just and
unjust acts the not possess it at all. From this statement, however,
one can conclude that free will is not a good thing in itself because
it can lead to wrong or unjust acts.
Saint Augustine was a Christian, and a brief and simple counterexample
from his religious perspective could prove this proposition to be
false. Augustine states that a great good is missing if someone lost
their hands or eyes,...