Willing to Lie: Some Equivocations in Ch. 5 of Anselm’s “On Freedom of Choice”

Anselm’s On Freedom of Choice, part 10

Chapter five of On the Freedom of Choice introduces a discussion that will prove of particular importance for Anselm’s account of the fall of the devil in the following dialogue, but also for exposing some of the conceptual problems plaguing that account. When the Student asks how it is that a man possessed of free choice can nevertheless be led through temptation to “desert” rightness against his own will, the Teacher responds that “[n]o one deserts this uprightness except by willing to. So if ‘against one’s will’ means ‘unwillingly,’ then no one deserts uprightness against his will.”[1] Although plausible-sounding enough, this statement actually contains a significant ambiguity, for where the first sentence implies that a person abandons justice only by positively willing it, the second sentence softens this requirement to a mere denial that there be any unwillingness that justice be abandoned. The difference is subtle yet significant, for the latter does not in fact logically entail the former: it is conceivable that someone can be without any unwillingness to lose something, without that absence of unwillingness amounting thereby to a positive will that they should lose it. Lest this seem overly nitpicking, it should be noted that Anselm himself is in the history of western thought something of an authority and expert on parsing out the will in just this matter. In his unfinished Philosophical Fragments, for example, a work noted by scholars as the first major contribution to a theory of modal agency, Anselm (again in the persona of his Teacher) discriminates between four senses of will: the efficient, the approving, the concessive, and the merely permissive. In the Teacher’s above equivocation between the will to desert justice and the absence of an unwillingness that justice be deserted, accordingly, I contend that what we have is a conflation of a case of concessive or permissive will with a case of efficient or approving will. Alternatively, the Teacher might be criticized here for failing to make the very distinction we will find him and his Student taking for granted later in On the Fall of the Devil, namely the difference between an active willing of justice and the comparatively passive cessation in the will to preserve justice.

The significance of this error begins to come into focus after the Student rephrases his question by means of the following example: “If someone who lies in order not to be killed does so only willingly, then how is it that he is said to lie against his will? For just as against his will he lies, so against his will he wills to lie. And someone who against his will wills to lie, unwillingly wills to lie.” It is at this point, in response, that the Teacher draws the distinction, noted earlier, between willing a thing for its own sake (propter se) and willing a thing for the sake of something else (propter aliud). It’s an important and helpful distinction, yet the problem comes with how the Teacher applies it to the Student’s example of someone being forced to lie on pain of death:

Therefore, perhaps it can be said that the man lies both against his will and not against his will, in accordance with these different wills. Accordingly, when the man said to lie against his will because insofar as he wills the truth he does not will to lie, this statement does not contradict my claim that no one deserts uprightness-of-will against his will. For in lying, the man wills to desert uprightness for the sake of his life; and in accordance with this will he deserts uprightness not against his will but willingly. This is the will we are now discussing…

As an explanation of how a man can both will to lie and will not to lie at one and the same time, the argument is valid enough: he does not will to lie per or propter se, that is, for the sake of lying itself, but only per accidens, insofar as the act of lying has been artificially and externally imposed upon him as a condition for saving his life. The fallacy comes when the Teacher plausibly and almost imperceptibly conflates this will to lie with the will to abandon justice: “in lying, the man wills to desert uprightness for the sake of his life.” As before with the will to desert justice and the lack of unwillingness that justice be abandoned, it is not at all obvious that the former necessarily involves the latter. (Anselm will makes a related mistake, incidentally, and as we shall see later, when in Cur Deus Homo he treats Jesus’s ability to speak the words “I know him [the Father] not” as proof that Jesus therefore had the ability to lie.) Even if we assume for the sake of argument that lying in order to save one’s life is indeed a sin, and as a sin it would entail the abandonment of rightness of will, this does not mean that there was therefore a will to abandon justice itself. Someone unjustly willing to lie in order to save a life, after all, is fully compatible (at least in principle) with him doing so precisely out of a will for justice, even if, ex hypothesi, he does so mistakenly. Justice, we recall here, is a matter of willing what one ought to will, suggesting that, so long as someone feels that lying in order to save his life is something one ought to do, there is a sense in which they are doing so (even if mistakenly) in the interest of justice. Harkening back to the Teacher’s preceding equivocation between, on the one hand, an active willing to desert justice and, on the other hand, the comparatively passive absence of unwillingness that justice should be retained, we may at the very least say that it is possible for the person who lies to save his life to do so with neither a will to abandon justice nor a will to preserve it. Instead, all that is necessary for such an unjust willingness to lie to take place is that there be an absence of a will one way or the other (which would itself be a form of injustice, to be sure, just not a willed one), but only a simple failure or cessation in the will for justice.


[1] On Freedom of Choice 5.

A Different Cause

Anselm’s On the Fall of the Devil, part 9 

Leading up to their discussion of the problem of the fall of the devil, we have thus far seen Anselm’s Student and Teacher develop two competing theologies of nothing. On the one hand is the Student’s theistic possibilism which, by holding God as the univocal cause of both the being and non-being of things, effectively and nihilistically obliterated the difference between created being and an hypothesized created non-being. On the other hand is the theistic actualism of the Teacher’s recognizing only God’s causality of those things which actually do exist, thereby subordinating the possibility of a thing’s non-being as something presupposing its prior, actual existence. Yet despite his intent to speak “properly” of God’s agency relative to the non-existence of things, we saw how the Teacher himself struggled to carry through consistently his own theological metaphysics and semantics of non-being. As it will be my purpose to show in this section, it is a similar ambiguity that plagues the Teacher’s account of how and why the devil fell.

Following chapter one’s ground-laying discussion of how God causes, not the non-being, but only their being, chapter two resumes the discussion of the non-perseverance of the fallen angels, and in chapter three the Teacher explains how it was that the angels who fell were genuinely offered by God—but on account of their own failure of will, did not receive from him—the gift of persevering in their will for justice. More than this, the angels who rebelled were not only offered the perseverance in willing justice, but they were even given the will for such perseverance. The reason they did not ultimately receive the gift of perseverance itself, accordingly, is that they did not persevere in their will for persevering in the will for justice. To avoid the ensuing infinite regress, however, the Teacher recommends that, when it is asked why the fallen angels did not persevere in willing justice, “some other explanation [alia causa] regarding this failure of will” ought to be given instead.[1] It is this strategy, as we shall see, of attributing the will’s failure to preserve justice to an alia causa, to some other, positive cause, that comprises the heart of Anselm’s solution to the problem of the fall of the devil.


[1] On the Fall of the Devil 3: “alia causa reddenda est, unde scilicet contigerit defectus illius voluntatis, quam quia non perseverasti velle voluntatem.”

Anselm’s Scriptural Actualism

In Anselm of Canterbury and the Desire for the Word, Eileen C. Sweeney ingeniously suggests that, for all their abstract and speculative subject matter, Anselm’s trilogy of dialogues–On Truth, On Freedom of Choice, and On the Fall of the Devil–actually track the first three major stages of biblical history: creation, the creation of man, and the fall.

The topics of the three dialogues correspond to the first three crucial points of the Christian salvation narrative. De veritate is a consideration of the possibility of created being, of many truths in relation to the one truth. De libertate arbitrii is a consideration of Eden, the finite will as free, having righteousness and able to keep it. De casu is a consideration of the possibility of the fall, of finite being as free but able to will what it ought not. Those views are adumbrated in scripture in narrative form, as a story stretched out over time. Anselm explores these notions of created being and finite will by shifting from scripture’s “horizontal” mode to a “vertical” one. His task, in other words, is the logical derivation of the ese moments and the incoherence of their contraries. The dialogues argue for these moments as logical possibilities… as logically coherent and necessary possibilities.

     In this sense, these works are no less “theological” than Cur Deus homo in the sense that they are no less tied up with the specifically Christian account of the human condition.  (240)

In Anselm’s trilogy of dialogues, in other words, we have a modal commentary of sorts on the first three chapters of Genesis, all of which, of course, prepares for Anselm’s later modal account in Cur Deus Homo on the possibility/necessity of the two events at the heart of the salvation story, the Incarnation and Atonement of Christ.

A couple of additional thoughts in response. The first is how this positions Anselm’s trilogy on truth, freedom, and the fall as not distinct from, but just another chapter in, his overarching project of fides quaerens intellectum, of “faith seeking understanding.” The second is how, in keeping with this, these dialogues may be seen to apply what I have argued previously to be Anselm’s methodological actualism, his recognition, that is, of Scripture as the divine, authoritative, and prior actuality that, when received by faith, afterwards opens up to reason and hence “makes possible” the theological and philosophical investigation of those realities contained in that prior revelation. If so, then there is a very real sense in which even Anselm’s (seemingly) a-Scriptural dialogues on truth, freedom, and the fall are not as speculative and unmoored as they may appear, but represent so many efforts at wrestling and coming to terms with a specifically and concretely Scriptural content.

A Power to Sin?

Anselm on Freedom, part 6

One final ambiguity in Anselm’s On Freedom of Choice deserves mentioning, especially as it is one that will reappear in in Anselm’s sequel dialgogue, On the Fall of the Devil. Although the Teacher denies, as we have seen, that the so-called “ability to sin” is a necessary or intrinsic part of freedom, there are moments when he nevertheless treats it as a real, positive power or ability, and in that sense as an authentic and officially recognized (even while morally prohibited) outlet of created free choice. On the one hand, the debility to sin is neither a power nor a freedom, but a form of impotence and lack of freedom. Yet despite Anselm’s concern in general not to speak “improperly,” his Teacher is guilty of such imprecision when he refers, for example, to a “power of sinning” (potestatem peccandi) or a “power to be a slave” (potestatis est ut serviat).[1] The Teacher’s difficulty is appreciable, as his challenge is to try to explain how it is that humans can sin and even use their freedom in order to sin, without on that account reckoning this liability as in any way part of the meaning or created purpose of the God-given power of free choice. Where the Teacher’s references to a “power” or “ability” to sin problematically imply that a certain vulnerability to sin is a positive, even temporary design feature of creaturely freedom, a much more subtle and successful approach is to be had in one of the finer distinctions drawn in in Anselm’s On Freedom of Choice. Speaking of Satan and Adam, the Teacher says that “each sinned by his own choice, which was free; but neither sinned by means of that in virtue of which his choice was free. That is [neither sinned] by means of the ability in virtue of which he was able not to sin and not to serve sin.”[2] What I take the Teacher to be somewhat awkwardly trying to articulate here is something like the more precise Aristotelian distinction between a thing causing something per se and it causing it per accidens. When Satan and Adam chose to sin, their individual wills were not a per se cause of their evil—that is, their wills were not a cause of their evil as a proper or essential consequence, function, or meaning of their freedom—but were rather a per accidens cause of the evil: the occasion, opportunity, and in this case, liability or vulnerability towards evil was something that just happened to be an accidental (i.e., contingent, non-necessary) feature of their freedom, an accident of freedom that in the angels’ case was removed the moment they resolved to abide in justice. This, I think, is what the Teacher means when he distinguishes between Satan and Adam sinning through their free choice, which he affirms, from their sinning on account of the freedom of that choice, which he denies. As the Teacher recognizes, and as has been said, our “ability” to sin is really a debility to sin, a negative and accidental rather than a positive and essential feature of human freedom. Just as evil does not have being in its own right, but is parasitic on the good that it negates, so our “power of sinning” cannot be a real power in its own right after all, but is a power parasitic on our (vulner)ability in freely choosing and doing the good. Sinning and being a slave to sin are, in summary, not positive possibilities in and of themselves which are just “there” in the same sense as our power to do the good, serving along side them to delimit and define the meaning and opportunities of creaturely freedom, but are rather the negative space concreated along with and as an accidental part of the (divinely designed yet temporary) limitations of human and angelic freedom. Freedom is not so much the power and possibility for sin as it is sin’s “unpossibility,” the unique (in)opportunity that free creatures have to fail to act on their God-given capacity for free and obedient action for its own sake.


[1] On Freedom of Choice 2.

[2] On Freedom of Choice 2. “Pecavit autem per arbitrium suum, quod erat liberum; sed non per hoc unde liberum erat, id est per potestatem, quia poterat non peccare, et peccato non servire…”

God is the Meaning of Freedom

Anselm on Freedom, part 5

In regards to that imperviousness to sin that God and the unfallen angels do “share,” this, too, may be best understood in analogical rather than univocal terms, for even this commonality finds itself radically disrupted by the recognition that, whereas God is his own freedom, creatures are free only by partaking in God’s freedom. As the Teacher explains in the central chapter of the dialogue, the purpose for which creatures were given freedom of choice was so that they might will what is right because it is right, for the sake of the rightness, correctness, or rectitude of will for its own sake.[1] Freedom of choice is accordingly defined as simply this capacity the free creature has for keeping or preserving the will’s original rightness of willing. To his earlier denial, therefore, that freedom of choice involves a floating between the abstract possibilities of sinning and not sinning, the Teacher gives further concrete, actualist grounding to the freedom of choice through his insistence on the latter’s ineluctably teleological character. Freedom is something given to creatures, by God, for a purpose, namely in order that the principle of right willing itself might be a superintending motive force in all of our free actions. The inherently theological character of this understanding of freedom of choice, however, is perhaps best seen in the fact that this rectitude of will (the preservation of which is the purpose of the freedom of choice) is a species of rectitude—or conforming to divine truth—in general, a topic the Teacher addresses at some length in the prequel to On Freedom of Choice, Anselm’s dialogue On Truth (De Veritate). Freedom of choice, in other words, is that unique capacity God’s rational creatures have for self-knowingly conforming themselves to the purpose God has for them and which purpose and conformity is their truth. With this context in mind, it becomes clear that God and his rational creatures do not so much share a common meaning of freedom as it is the case that God is the meaning of the freedom of his rational creatures: they are free precisely to the degree that they allow their own rectitude of will, and hence their own conformity to God’s purpose, to be the ulterior motive behind all their actions deserving to be called free. In sum, then, it is not some abstract, univocal definition of freedom, but God himself who is the prior metaphysical and hence semantic possibility for the similarity or resemblance between himself and his creatures. Far from freedom being a simple binary affair, in which a being either conforms to the univocal definition or it doesn’t, the picture of freedom that emerges is that of an analogical scale according to which freedom admits of a greater or lesser capacity to relentlessly pursue divine truth. God of course cannot himself inhabit such a scale since the scale itself is the measure of a thing’s likeness to God’s own freedom. If so, by what possible, univocal, theologically-neutral definition of freedom might we compare his freedom to that of his creatures? Similar to the possibilist myth of there existing real, determinate, yet uncreated possibilities and worlds—alleged to be necessary for explaining God’s counterfactual freedom and power—so the promise of a univocal concept of freedom, here and as we shall see later, turns out to be less fact than fiction: conjectured as a necessary bulwark for the possibility of meaningful religious langauge and the validity of theological science, univocity turns out time and again to be an apparition that dissipates the moment it is subjected to the light of a frank assessment of God’s transcendence. Freedom, accordingly, is not so malleable as to be hammered thin enough to gild both God and his creatures as so many common “instances” of a single, univocal meaning. Instead, creaturely freedom is a limited, analogical sounding of the otherwise infinite depths of God’s measureless freedom. In terms of our theology of the possible, freedom is not an abstract property existing prior to and apart from God’s creative intention—all the while permanently defining God’s own potential to be univocally harnessed along side his possible creation—but is a metaphysical and semantic possibility only brought into being through God’s at once eternal yet ad hoc interpretation of and improvisation upon his own inimitable liberty. In short, God is his own freedom and as such invents the analogical freedom of his creatures.


[1] On Freedom of Choice 3.

Freedom as the Inability to Sin (Non Posse Peccare)

Anselm on Freedom, part 4

Having asserted the mere fact of there being an element of sameness between the freedom of God and the angels and the freedom of human beings, the Teacher immediately follows this with a qualification as to their profound difference. Far from allowing freedom to range over possibilities which are thought to include both good and evil, the Teacher argues that freedom actually lies in one’s liberation from evil as a “possibility”:

T: Which will seems the more free to you: the will which so wills and is so able not to sin that it cannot at all be turned away from the rightness [rectitudo] of not sinning or the will which in some way is able to be turned to sinning?

S: I do not see why a will which has both abilities [viz., to sin and not to sin] is not the more free.

T: Don’t you see that someone who so possesses what is fitting and advantageous that he cannot lose it is more free than someone else who possesses the same thing in such a way that he can lose it and can be induced to what is unfitting and disadvantageous? … Then, the ability to sin, which if added to the will decreases the will’s freedom and if substracted from the will increases its freedom, is neither freedom nor a part of freedom.[1]

In the Proslogion’s discussion of “the other side of omnipotence,” we recall, Anselm had argued in semi-Boethian fashion that the person who can do evil things or suffer misfortune does so “not by a power but by a lack of power. For it is not the case that he is said to be able because he himself is able; rather, [he is said to be able] because his own lack of power causes something else to be powerful over him…”[2] It is much the same argument that the Teacher here applies to the supposition of freedom including the ability to sin: just as the ability to do evil is not properly speaking a power, but a lack of power, so this same ability to do evil is not properly speaking a matter of freedom, but a lack of freedom, an ability to lose one’s freedom. It is not so much an ability as it is a kind of liabiliaty or inability. Being altogether free from what we might call the debility of sin, God and the confirmed angels are therefore free in a way and to a degree that human beings presently are not. In contrast, then, to what the Teacher says about there being a univocal sameness between the freedom of God and his rational creatures, what he actually shows is how different and surpassing divine and angelic freedom is in comparison to the vulnerability of human freedom to sin.


[1] On Freedom of Choice 1(emphasis added).

[2] Proslogion 7.

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.

Is God’s Freedom Univocal with Ours?

Anselm on Freedom, part 2

For the Teacher, then, freedom does not lie, in possibilist fashion, in a supposed ability to range indifferently over the possibilities of sinning and not sinning. What the Teacher does allow, ironically, is the meaning of freedom to range indifferently over the possibilities of divine and creaturely freedom. When the Student responds by asking whether the cases of God and the good angels are not too dissimilar to draw any conclusions about our own freedom, the Teacher answers: “Although the free choice of men differs from that of God and of the good angels, nevertheless the definition of this freedom ought to be the same in both cases, in accordance with the name ‘freedom.’”[1] The assertion of a definition of freedom common to both God and creatures has understandably led a number of scholars to conclude that Anselm affirms a theory of univocal speech about God after all, despite his disavowal of any such possibility in his teaching on God’s transcendence and aseity in the Monologion. If Anselm’s intent, as seems to be the case, is indeed to affirm a univocity of divine and creaturely freedom, the concern is whether, in the very process of defending—over against the Student’s objection—the relevance of God’s freedom to the discussion of creaturely freedom, the Teacher has not effectively reduced God ontically to a mere instance of freedom free of the alleged “ability to sin,” and so have marginalized God from having any ultimate intrinsic significance to the meaning of freedom. Instead of analogically rooting the meaning and possibility of freedom in the actual, concrete reality of God (as I suggested the Teacher started off doing), God’s own freedom is now recast as just one among two possible (divine versus created) modalities situated within a semantically and hence logically prior and more encompassing system of freedom. It was suggested in our earlier consideration of analogy in the Monologion that there is a kind of divine univocalism involved in the Augustinian ideas, according to which God predicates of himself all those possibilities which precede and determine the range and meaning of divine action. In a parallel fashion, the Teacher’s notion of a univocal concept of freedom would seem to establish a prior, abstract possibility of freedom that is supposed to semantically precede and yoke the actual, concrete and specific instances of divine and creaturely freedom. If so, and in some ways even more explicit than the Student’s rejected definition of freedom as the ability to sin and not to sin, it is the Teacher who in fact allows for an effective de-naturing and now even de-theologizing of freedom. As we shall see later, one potential consequence of having brought God thus down to inhabit the same semantic orbit of freedom as his creatures is the way a number of Anselm’s interpreters have understood—incorrectly, in my view—God’s own causal agency as similarly existing and even competing within the same metaphysical plane as the freedom of his creatures. Once freedom has been admitted as a semantically and logically “given” for God, in other words, we should not be surprised to find the freedom of his creatures to be similarly understood as a metaphysical and causal “given” for him as well. A God whose freedom can mean the same thing as his creatures’ freedom, it may turn out, is a God whose freedom can be exercised over his creatures only at the expense and exclusion of their own freedom.


[1] On Freedom of Choice 1. “Quamvis differat liberum arbitrium hominum a libero arbitrio Dei et angelorum bonorum diffinitio tamen hujus libertatis in utrisque, secundum hoc nomen, eadem debet esse.”

Is Freedom of Choice the Ability to Sin or Not to Sin?

Anselm on Freedom, part 1

Although they do not address the doctrines of God and creation directly, the works in which Anselm deals most directly and extensively with the question of possibility are his two dialogues on free will, On Freedom of Choice (De libertate arbitrii) and its sequel On the Fall of the Devil (De casu diaboli). Together, these works comprise Anselm’s explanation of how God has made the freedom of choice possible for his rational creatures, and how and in what sense, through this freedom, moral evil has also been made “possible.”

A dialogue between a master and his pupil, Anselm’s On Freedom of Choice opens with the Student asking his Teacher whether “freedom of choice consists in being able to sin and not to sin” (libertas arbitrii est posse pecare et non peccare), as many allege to be the case. The Teacher, as we shall see shortly, denies that freedom of choice includes any such “ability to sin,” yet as I hope to show, he is not as successful in escaping this notion as one might wish him to be. Before considering the Teacher’s response, therefore, it may behoove us to consider the implication’s of the Student’s position on freedom in closer detail. In contemporary philosophical parlance, the characterization of freedom as the ability to sin or not to sin involves the Principle of Alternate Possibilities, the thesis that for any exercise of free choice, two or more equally available and electable options must be present.[1] The possibilism of such a formulation, of course, lies in its characterization of freedom as a capacity to range indifferently (at least so far as the essence of freedom is concerned) over supposedly equally available and electable, but otherwise mutually exclusive options. Freedom, accordingly, would seem to lie not in any suposed intrinsic or natural connection between the will and its actions, but in the comparatively extrinsic consideration that the will should have at its disposal the opportunity not only to perform a given action, but also its opposite. (This suggests, moreover, that the meaning of a given action, so far as it is a free action, is in some sense parasitic upon the meaning of its contrary: to be a free action is for that action to be chosen over against, yet in the presence of, its opposite.) Once again, we see that it is the possible that is allowed to precede and determine what is afterward made actual. More problematic still is the Student’s suggestion that the alternative possibilities supposed to be necessary to comprise freedom lie not in the possibility of doing one good action to the exclusion of another good action, but in an alleged “ability to sin” counterbalancing and in tension with an opposing ability to do the good. What is more, the Student’s formulation would seem to use Augustine’s notion of posse non peccare to invert Augustine’s own privation theory of evil, inasmuch as the ability to do the good has been reconceived not in positive but in privative terms as an “ability not to sin,” thereby suggesting that, if anything, it is the “ability to sin” that is the default orientation of freedom. On such a view of freedom, then, not only is evil effectively elevated into, if not a moral, then at least a real modal and metaphysical possibility—one whose presence is positively required for the existence and exercise of freedom as freedom—but insofar as its spectre now haunts both poles between which freedom operates, evil comes to constitute the total and intrinsic meaning and possibility of freedom. To sin or not to sin—that is the question of freedom.

Seen in this light, it is not surprising to find the Teacher rejecting so dubious an account of freedom in no uncertain terms. He cites as counter-examples the cases of God and the unfallen and confirmed angels, both of whom are free and yet neither of whom possess the Student’s hypothesized “ability to sin.” Over against the possibilism of the Student’s conjecture of an abstract, denatured freedom to sin or not to sin, in other words, the Teacher will take as his provisional characterization of freedom the actual, concrete examples of God and the blessed angels whose freedom, as we shall see shortly, lies not in any alleged ability to prescind itself from the good, but rather in their unwavering commitment to the same.


[1] On Anselm’s rejection of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities as a requirement for freedom of choice, see, for example, Visser and Williams, Anselm, and Rogers, Anselm on Freedom.