Not Univocity, Just No Equivocity

Anselm on Freedom, part 3

The previous post looked at some of the implications of the Teacher’s suggestion that God’s freedom is univocal with ours. However that may be, as we saw in the Monologion, there is a compelling case to be made for seeing Anselm’s instincts as ultimately lying in the direction of an analogical rather than univocal theory of theological language. Consistent with this is that, even in On Freedom of Choice, having asserted the fact of a univocal meaning of freedom for God and creatures, Anselm’s Teacher, significantly enough, actually has precious little to say either in explanation or defense of his claim. Given the context, it is tempting and perhaps justifiable to suppose that that the Teacher’s daliance with univocity is nothing more than a well-meaning yet misguided application of his more basic concern, namely to refute the Student’s suggestion that freedom requires the ability to sin. As has been noted, the Teacher only posits his thesis of univocal freedom to counter the Student’s suggestion that the Teacher’s counter-examples of divine and angelic freedom are too equivocal to merit comparison with human freedom. Thus, unless we beg the question by assuming that a univocal concept of freedom among God, angels, and humans is the only possible alternative to the Student’s assertion of equivocity, the burden of proof on the Teacher is actually quite low: he doesn’t need to show that there is a sense in which the freedom of God and the angels is exactly the same as that of human beings, nor, once again, does he anywhere demonstrate such univocity. Rather, he only needs to establish a sufficient likeness (i.e., analogy) between divine and angelic freedom and human freedom so as to establish that if God and the angels don’t need the ability to sin in order to be free, neither do humans. In short, the Teacher doesn’t need to prove univocity of divine and human freedom, but only deny equivocity.


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