Contra-Causal Free Will?

Hello, I came across this article and it seems quite troubling:

It states we don’t have “contra-casual free will” which is defined as: “in a situation as it actually occurred, you could have done otherwise but chose not to. The choice was up to you…it wasn’t completely determined by causal chains…but neither was it random.”

It also discusses the evolution of shame and guilt. Could I get some Catholic advice? What type of free will do we have? The author of the other article says it’s libertarian and we’re uncaused causers.

That author also states: “Choosing requires a motive or reason to behave one way as opposed to another. An uncaused causer by definition isn’t at the influence of any motive or desire, so would have no reason to choose.” But don’t we always have reasons for choices? Can you please read both articles and offer some advice? Thank you.

God Bless

Just from what you’ve wrote it seems like a bunch of assumptions.
We have free will.

I suppose I would like to know what type of free will do we possess? Is it actually “contra-casual” free will, or something different?

God Bless

The free will we possess, I do not think it is well defined, but we know we have the ability to not sin when presented with temptation via the Grace of God.

It is a philosophical question and will have different answers I imagine.

1 Like

Catholic Encylopedia

The question of free will may now be stated thus. “Given all the conditions requisite for eliciting an act of will except the act itself, does the act necessarily follow?” Or, “Are all my volitions the inevitable outcome of my character and the motives acting on me at the time?” Fatalists, necessarians, determinists say “Yes”. Libertarians, indeterminists or anti-determinists say "No. The mind or soul in deliberate actions is a free cause. Given all the conditions requisite for action, it can either act or abstain from action. It can, and sometimes does, exercise its own causality against the weight of character and present motives.


… God’s omnipotent providence exercises a complete and perfect control over all events that happen, or will happen, in the universe. How is this secured without infringement of man’s freedom? Here is the problem which two distinguished schools in the Church–both claiming to represent the teaching, or at any rate the logical development of the teaching of St. Thomas–attempt to solve in different ways.

Thomist and Molinist theories

The Molinist then claims to safeguard better man’s freedom by substituting for the decree of an inflexible premotion one of concurrence dependent on God’s prior knowledge of what the free being would choose. If given the power to exert the choice. He argues that he exempts God more clearly from all responsibility for man’s sins. The claim seems to the present writer well founded; at the same time it is only fair to record on the other side that the Thomist urges with considerable force that God’s prescience is not so understandable in this, as in his theory. He maintains, too, that God’s exercise of His absolute dominion over all man’s acts and man’s entire dependence on God’s goodwill are more impressively and more worthily exhibited in the premotion hypothesis. The reader will find an exhaustive treatment of the question in any of the Scholastic textbooks on the subject.

Maher, M. (1909). Free Will. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

1 Like

So could we “have done otherwise but chose not to” if we could go back in time with the exact same circumstances? Or does this not matter for Catholic free will?

Logically speaking you could have done the opposite of what you have done if you could reverse time and know what you have done in the past. What is the problem?

Stop reading such tripe. Libertarians are pagans for the most part. Are you? Read Saint Augustine.

I see, but wouldn’t our mental states be the same if we reversed time? I guess in that situation, we’d be able to remove our minds from causation.

God Bless

I said if you know. Your mental state would be different if you know otherwise it stays the same. What you are going to do if you were in the same situation. It is up to you and no-one can know it including you until you make the decision. It is not random too. That is what I believe. I have to mentioned that I am puzzled with Libet experiment:

which seems that the author of the article you mention argue in favor of it. It seems that decisions are made before we are conscious of them!

What do you mean by removing our mind? What do you want to argue?

I think Libet’s experiment is vastly oversold. Many of our actions don’t work like a flex of a wrist. They involve active deliberation and weighing of considerations. The experiment also doesn’t show neural activity invariably follows a flex of the wrist.

Libet didn’t check for cases where neural activity occurred but was not followed by flexing. Even if the neural activity preceded a flexing of the wrist, it doesn’t follow the flex wasn’t a free choice.

I wasn’t sure how to phrase it, but post #10 answered it for me!

God Bless

In the second article (OP), the author states: “contra-causal free will: that in a situation as it actually occurred, you could have done otherwise but chose not to. The choice was up to you in a very strong, metaphysical sense: it wasn’t completely determined by causal chains traceable back in time, but neither was it random, To have free will in this sense is to be an uncaused causer…

Choosing requires a motive or reason to behave one way as opposed to another. An uncaused causer by definition isn’t at the influence of any motive or desire, so would have no reason to choose.”

I think the author doesn’t fully understand an uncaused causer. It might be different when it comes to God.

If God gave us an uncaused soul with free will, wouldn’t we desire the good? Like this Thomas Merton quote: “Freedom isn’t necessarily the privilege of having the choice between good and evil, but the ability to chose only good.”

Meaning we choose evil, thinking it would be good for us, but we suffer the consequences of the wrong choice. Would this make sense?

I think he fully understand the topic. Either what we do is the result of a chain of causality or it is uncaused cause. We are of course an uncaused causer when we decide since our decisions doesn’t depend on circumstances.

I think he was struggling with the fact that God is always do good while being free. We human however have corrupted free will due to fall therefore we can choose evil. I think Thomas didn’t understand free will, good and evil.

We as rational being and only need rationality to do good. Free will allows us to do evil. So the question is that what is the use of it?

You might like to read this article:

What does the article show? How does it relate to free will?

“How did guilt and shame develop?”

Mothers everywhere invented those.

Free will is a conscious activity.

This is an unacceptable definition in the context of Catholic moral philosophy. It insidiously implies there is no spiritual (soul) causes.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in Summa Theologiae Ia, 83, 1 ad 3.

Reply to Objection 3. Free-will is the cause of its own movement, because by his free-will man moves himself to act. But it does not of necessity belong to liberty that what is free should be the first cause of itself, as neither for one thing to be cause of another need it be the first cause. God, therefore, is the first cause, Who moves causes both natural and voluntary. And just as by moving natural causes He does not prevent their acts being natural, so by moving voluntary causes He does not deprive their actions of being voluntary: but rather is He the cause of this very thing in them; for He operates in each thing according to its own nature.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit