Quote of the Day: The rational free choice


“A man has free choice to the extent that he is rational.” – St. Thomas Aquinas

I thought this was an insightful quote from this great doctor of the Church. He seems to be suggesting that our choices are truly only “free” if we are using our rational thought – if we are rationally embracing our power of free will.

So he’s making some big distinctions between the kinds of choices we make. When we simply choose an action based on emotion or some other feeling, are we truly acting freely? Or are we acting as a slave to that feeling or emotion? Perhaps it is in our rational thought that the choice truly becomes free. It is then that we have viewed the facts, rationally thought them through, and made a choice free from any other influence. Then we have done so freely.

What do you all think?

5 comments Add comment

Steve J. Moore February 13, 2009 at 8:49 am

I think the logic of the statement is apparent as you suggest. If you make a choice based on something other than reason, you are not acting out of free will, but a will bound by that other influence, be it emotion, suggestion, or otherwise.

Karinann February 13, 2009 at 9:07 am

I think our society today-at least secular society, tends to confuse freedom with license. There is a difference- license often = “do what I want.” True freedom comes with a well formed conscience allowing us the freedom to do what is right and good.

Kevin Liner February 13, 2009 at 12:41 pm

As I read that quote, I was reminded of a paper that I wrote some time ago on emotions. Aquinas holds (as your quote implies) that in order for a choice to be truly free, the person making it has to be free, which isn’t the case when he is overpowered by his emotions. He gives the example of a person who is unable to study/learn when there is a pain which is distracting his attention. Because his mind’s focus is on the pain, rather than the thing to be learned, he is unable to carry out the intellectual activity required in order to learn. If you’re interested in reading the paper (I just did as a refresher ;), it’s here: http://andfortoday.wordpress.com/2008/08/21/ordering-the-passions-with-virtue/ – it deals specifically with the virtues which are necessary in order to overcome emotional “bondage.”

Thanks for the reminder ;).

Matthew Warner February 13, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Thanks for sharing, Kevin! I will try and check it out. Interesting stuff!

Vilma February 13, 2009 at 3:20 pm

I just want to add that just because something is legalized, it does not make it right. Alot of people make the wrong decisions by using argument that ït’s not illegal, so it must be ok”. People need to stop making excuses for their mistakes and stop blaming lawmakers for their immorality. We are still free to make the rational decision-free from emotion. Thats my two cents…..

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